SCRIPTURE READINGS: WS 7:22 – 8:1 LK 17:20-25

As we approach the end of the liturgical calendar year, the Church now focuses on the theme of the Second Coming of Christ.  Like the Pharisees and the Jews in the gospel, we too are curious about the end of time.  We too indulge in all sorts of speculation. Will the world come to an end? Will it be destroyed? When will it come?  What signs will precede the Day of the Lord?

When we ask these questions, it shows that we are influenced by the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament’s understanding of the Day of the Lord.  In the Old Testament, the prophets described the end time as the “Day of the Lord.”  It would be a day when God would manifest Himself in all His glory and power, judging all of humanity, punishing His enemies and sinners whilst rewarding the just.  It will be a day of judgment, not just for Israel but for all the nations.  (cf Amos 5:18-20) At the same time, in the book of Daniel, the Day of the Lord is associated with the Son of Man.  (cf Dn 7:13-14) He will be the judge of all the nations, the living and the dead, on behalf of Yahweh, and then God’s Kingdom will finally be established.  Within this context, we can appreciate Jesus’ usage of the term “Son of man” to self-designate Himself, since it has messianic connotations in connection with the Day of the Lord.  His Second Coming will bring about the work of restoration and final judgment and the full realization of the Kingdom of God.

Even then, it will be helpful to recognize the two different strands of interpretation with respect to the Day of the Lord. In apocalyptic eschatology, the end of time is conceived in terms of the destruction of the earth so that there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  This is very much the understanding in the prophecy of Joel.  We see this also in the Letter of Peter, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat … Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:12-13)  However, another view, namely, the prophetic eschatological position, holds that this earth and heaven will not be destroyed but be created totally new through a radical transformation. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create a Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (Isaiah 65:17-19)

Regardless of whichever view we hold with respect to the end of time, one thing is certain, we will know when the Day of the Lord comes.  Speaking about the New Covenant, Jeremiah said, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time … I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:33-34) So no special sign is needed to know the coming of Christ or the Day of the Lord because all will recognize Him, His presence and power as clearly as the lightning in the sky, considering that in the Desert, it would be even so strikingly seen since the sky is almost always clear.

Of course, the Day of the Lord is not only to be understood as coming at the end of time but it in fact it has already come.  This accounts for Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees that “the kingdom of God is among you.”  In other words, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person.  In Him, God reigns as seen in His authoritative preaching, in His works of healing and exorcisms and in His behavior of welcoming and mixing with sinners, especially having meals with them.  Of course the religious leaders could not accept the truth of what Jesus taught and His identity as the Messiah and the Son of God.

The coming of God’s Kingdom, according to Jesus, is not so much seen in the cosmological phenomena but in a person who submits Himself to the rule of God, the rule of love.  Jesus in that sense is the sure sign, for in Him God reigns, both in His life on earth and especially at His passion, death and resurrection.  In His death, we see the love of God made visible.  In His resurrection, we see already the glory and power of God’s victory over sin and death.  Hence, He said, “for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.”  So if we could confidently claim that the Kingdom of God has already come, it is but our declaration that in Christ, the powers of darkness and sin have been overcome.  We who submit ourselves to Christ’s rule will share in His victory over Satan, sin and death too.

On the other hand, the kingdom is already here existentially in our hearts when Jesus lives in us.  The Kingdom of God is not just near us but is within us.  “Whoever loves me will keep my word; and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (Jn 14:23) The moment when we allow Him to reign in our hearts; the moment when we live the gospel life that He has shown and taught us, especially living out the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, we are living under the reign of the Kingdom.  But this is not possible by our own strength, except with the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit.  Only with God’s grace can the Kingdom enter into our lives.

Consequently, for the kingdom to take root in our hearts and minds, we must receive the Holy Spirit, as the first reading from the book of wisdom instructs us.  The author of Wisdom describes wisdom in feminine terms, calling her “the breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness. Although alone, she can do all; herself unchanging, she makes all things new. In each generation, she passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets; for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.”  The last verse is significant; that only the man who lives with Wisdom is loved by God.

Wisdom is not only a gift of the Holy Spirit but also a personification of the Word of God, since the Word is identical with Wisdom.  Jesus, in St John’s gospel, is the Word of God made flesh.  Again the psalmist sings praises to the Word of God.  He says, “Your word is for ever, O Lord. According to your ordinances they still stand firm: all things serve you. The revelation of your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple. Let your countenance shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.”  So wisdom stands both for the Spirit of God and the Word of God.  Jesus, who is the Word of God, imparts us the Holy Spirit upon His resurrection.  And what better way is there to receive the Wisdom of God in the Holy Spirit than through the celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments where Jesus comes to live in us and transform our hearts and minds?

By welcoming Jesus and His Spirit into our hearts, the love of God will dwell in us.  The Father and the Son who live in us in the Holy Spirit will transform our hearts and empower us to live the Trinitarian life of love and unity.  So let us consciously continue to immerse ourselves in the Word of God in prayer so that His Spirit dwells in us and gives us His gifts of intelligence, holiness, purity, steadfastness, benevolence and goodness to live the life of God in our lives.