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(Part 28)


November 26, 2009

If you thought the devastation of Ondoy was bad, look at Job. If you think the affliction of Job was severe, look to Jerusalem. If you see that the destruction of Jerusalem was lamentable, look to the end of time.

Our readings today bring us to the end times. Both the book of Daniel and this section of Luke (21:20-28) are apocalyptic, that is, having to do with the end times. But they also have to do with the various important aspects of the theme the Lord has given us for 2010.

A common thread is the awesome majesty of God. King Darius recognized God as “the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be without end.” (Dn 6:27b). Jesus himself describes his second coming as “coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Lk 21:27).

Because of that, we have our proper posture, which is awe or reverential fear. King Darius, ruler of the whole world at that time, decreed that “the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared” (Dn 6:27a). Jesus speaks of awesome “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and .... the roaring of the sea and the waves” (Lk 21:25), of “the powers of the heavens (being) shaken.” (Lk 21:26b).

But why do calamities and affliction come upon us? First, as punishment for sin. Jesus says that those “days are the time of punishment when all the scriptures are fulfilled.” (Lk 21:22). God’s justice and righteousness will be satisfied. If evil triumphs today, at the end of time “a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people.” (Lk 21:23b). But second, due to sin or not, affliction comes as purification. This is for sinners, but at times, as in the case of Job, seemingly especially for good people. God calls us to holiness, and affliction is what strongly propels us in this direction.

And thus we see that suffering is redemptive.

What then should our proper posture be?

We recognize who our God truly is. He is just and righteous. “He is a deliverer and savior” (Dn 6:28a). “God indeed is my savior” (Is 12:2a). God loves us, proving this by sending His very own Son to suffer and die for us on the cross, thus winning for us our salvation. If God has given us His very own Son, He will not withhold any good thing from us. So we can look to Him, as our deliverer, to deliver us not just from our sins but also from our suffering.

If that is the case, then we trust in God. Daniel was removed from the lions’ den, “unhurt because he trusted in his God.” (Dn 6:24b). We trust in God’s love for us, in His great plan for us, in His power to deliver us, in His faithfulness to our covenant. We might face great trials for the moment, but in the end, God redeems us.

In trusting God, we are able to endure our suffering. In fact, we rejoice in seeing, or knowing, that suffering leads to redemption. Daniel was attacked by the supervisors and satraps (the high government officials) and they caused his being “cast into the lions’ den.” (Dn 6:17a). But Daniel was miraculously protected by God from any harm. “This gave the king great joy.” (Dn 6:24a). As we see that the suffering that pains us actually leads to deliverance, redemption and holiness, then we too ought to rejoice.

As we know that God is the Almighty, that only He can fulfill our lives, that we are called to turn away from sin and become holy, that He will come again in glory at the end of time for the final judgment, then we must proclaim Him to the world. We must evangelize. And those we evangelize become evangelizers themselves, in ever widening circles, until a vast army is proclaiming Christ throughout all the earth.

Even King Darius, after witnessing the miracle of Daniel’s redemption, became an evangelizer. He “wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: ‘All peace to you! I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared” (Dn 6:26-27a).

The work of evangelization is intended to win the world for Christ. It is to prepare a people that will be faithful to God’s call and be among the redeemed when Christ returns in glory. We strive to give our all, reaching out to as many as we can. If possible, we look to all of creation and all the earth praising and exalting God above all forever (Dn 3:68-74).

In this difficult and challenging work, we continue to trust in Jesus, who commissioned us to evangelize. Know that Jesus remains with us till the end of time. And know that he sends his angels to assist us and protect us.[1] Daniel said: “My God has sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths” (Dn 6:23a).

Ondoy, Job, Jerusalem, the end times. All have many lessons to teach us.

If you think you have suffered, think again. Jesus describes the end times in these words: “desolation, ... time of punishment, ... woe, ... a terrible calamity, ... a wrathful judgment, ... trampled underfoot, ... dismay, ... powers of the heavens shaken” (Lk 21:20,22-26). No wonder some “people will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world” (Lk 21:26a)!

But listen. Such apocalyptic images and writing are meant to encourage you and to inspire you! What? Yes! Look at the total picture. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk 21:28). Our suffering is just a prelude to redemption. Of that, we are assured by Jesus himself, who himself already showed us the way.

We will suffer in the world. We will be afflicted, oppressed and persecuted. But such is the privilege of following in the footsteps of our Master and Savior Jesus. We endure for a time, but we look to heavenly bliss for all eternity.

* * *

[1] There are seven archangels, and three of them are mentioned in the Bible. One is Raphael, mentioned in the book of Tobit. The other two are Gabriel and Michael, mentioned in the book of Daniel (Dn 8:16, 10:13) and in the New Testament. Gabriel of course is well known as the angel who appeared to Mary and announced the coming birth of Jesus (Lk 1:26-38). Michael is prominent in the book of Revelation as the angel who fought and defeated Satan (Rev 12:7-9). Michael is the angel who is the protector of God’s people (Dn 12:1a).

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