Reading (2 John 4-9) Gospel (St. Luke 17:26-37)
As we move now to the end of the Church’s year, the Church gives us these readings that center around the end times. We saw in yesterday’s reading and now again today what is going to happen at the end of the world. The Lord today tells us that life is going to go on just as normal right up to the end. Not normal in the sense that everybody is doing what they ought, but externally they are going to be buying and selling, marrying and being given in marriage, and just life as usual until the Day of the Lord. And as the Lord makes very clear, everything seemed to be going along until the day Noah entered the ark. Everything was going along in Sodom and Gomorrah until the day that Lot left. Then with the suddenness of what occurred, they were all gone. That is the way the Lord is telling us it is going to happen, that for the most part, the world is going to be carrying on just as they do every other day and then the end is going to arrive.
At the same time, when they ask Him, “Where is this going to happen?” the Lord tells us, “Where the body is, that is where the vultures gather.” In other words, it is not going to happen in any one specific location – it is going to happen everywhere. Wherever the bodies are, wherever there is sin, wherever there are human beings, that is where it is going to occur. It is the whole world; it is not just a city like it was for Sodom or Gomorrah; it is the whole place. And to everyone it will happen at the same time.
Now for those of us who claim to be the followers of Christ, we also have very clearly given to us what is necessary, that is, to follow the commandments. And to follow the commandments is to love God. If we look at what Saint John wrote in his second letter that we heard in the first reading today, it seems like a bit of a circular argument. He said, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments; and this is the commandment we have heard from the beginning and in which we walk.” So the commandment we have is to love, and to love is to follow the commandment. We still need to ask ourselves, “What is it that we are supposed to do?” because love is not just simply a matter of doing the external things as one might be commanded to do. Anyone who has had to deal with teenage kids sometimes probably knows how that operates. They may out of force externally do the things that the parents require them to do; they certainly are not doing it out of charity on many occasions. And so it is with us. We may look at the commandments and we may know what we are supposed to do – so externally we go through the motions – but if there is no love then we really are not doing what God wants us to do.
The commandment that we have is not merely to do what is external, but to look even beneath what is external to ask the reason why, and to act in the right way out of love for God and out of love for neighbor. That is what the whole set of the commandments is all about. And so for Saint John to tell us that the commandment we had from the beginning is to love, and if we love that we are living according to the commandment, is simply to say what Saint Augustine said: Love and do what you will. If you are truly loving you will not sin because love seeks only the good of the other, where sin is something which is selfish. And so if we are truly loving we will not be selfish, we will be seeking only to glorify God, we will be seeking only the good of those around us. Then we will indeed be following all of the commandments. We will do what is right, but we will do what is right for the right reason. And that is the point that is most important. That is the way we walk in the commandments, not simply by external observance, but from the heart, by internal observance to love.
And if we are loving, we have nothing to fear because we are doing the Will of God. Then when the Lord comes we will be ready. Whether we anticipated His coming or not is secondary. If He finds us doing what He commanded us to do, He tells us in another parable: “Then it will be well for that person.” So we simply need to be about doing the work of the Lord, and doing the work of the Lord is to love. That does not mean having gushy feelings. That means to practice charity: to love God and to love neighbor, to pour ourselves out, and to be seeking to glorify God and to build up those around us. That is love. That is doing the Will of God. If the Lord returns and we are doing what He commanded us to do, it will be well for us. So if we are simply seeking to do His Will, we need not fear. Put all the fears aside and simply seek the Lord and His Will.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.