SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  MALACHI 3:19-20; 2 THESS 3:7-12; LUKE 21:5-19   ]

Today, many of us are living in a state of atrophy.  We wonder what we are living for.  Is life just about work, making money, building an empire, having a car and a house, going for holidays?  Is there nothing more to life than simply eating, enjoying and having pleasure?  This life with so much suffering, injustice and tragedy does not seem worth living.  Not only that; there is so much irony in this life too.  Big house, small family; advance medicine, poor health;  More degrees, less common sense; Touched moon, neighbours unknown; high income, less peace of mind; more knowledge, less wisdom; high IQ, less emotions;  multiple affairs, no true love; lots of virtual friends, no real friends; costly watches, no time; more alcohol less water; lots of human, less humanity. Maybe we should just return the ticket back to God!

What is the cause of this state that we have arrived at?  I believe this is due to the disconnect between the present and the future brought about by secularism.  With secularism, the rejection of God and eternity has resulted in materialism, consumerism and relativism.  When there is no future, what else can man hope for if not the present?

But if we just live in the present, after some time, we would wonder what life is all about.  Once our bodily needs are satisfied, we will get bored again. Whether we believe we have a spirit or not, the truth is that even when we have acquired all the things of this world, enjoyed all we can, our hearts will remain empty and life meaningless.  Call it our spirit or by any other name, we know that we need more than things, we need love and meaning.  Without love, life is empty.  Without meaning, especially unconditional meaning, we can never live passionately.  The result is disillusionment, atrophy, hopelessness, despair. When money, power, status, and things no longer attract us, what else is there to live for?

On the other hand, we have the other group of people that incidentally is part of the cause of those who only want to live in the present.  This is the group who live only in the future.  Like the disciples in the gospel, they are always concerned about life after death, the end of the world and the future of humanity.  They indulge in speculation – of the date of the end of the world.  They promote visions and promises of prophets warning them that the world is coming to an end.  Their mind is always about the coming of God’s kingdom and the destruction of the world.  They live in fear and anxiety.  If ever they come back to God, it is because of the fear of punishment as the scriptures often mentioned.  Everything would be destroyed.

Those who live in this mode have a disdain of the present.  They feel that this life is going nowhere.  This is an evil world and so the only way for God to redeem us is to bring this world to an end.  Only a New Heaven and a New Earth can bring about justice and peace.  As far as they are concerned, this world is going to the dogs.

Between these two groups, we have another group that lives in the past.  Unable to cope with the present life, the stress and the demands of the modern world, they go back to the past.  Instead of living in the future, they wallow in the nostalgia of the good old days. Thinking of the past provides them some consolation but if they are not careful, they too will fall into a melancholic and depressive state.  Their mode of thinking is, “it could have been!” Living in the past will do us no good because we become misfits in society.  We will eventually be left behind and rot.

How then should we live our life if we want to live meaningfully and enthusiastically?  We need to live for the future in the present.  The present and the future must be held in tension at all times.  Yet, it is not so much a tension as they are mutually complementary.  The reality is that there is no lasting kingdom in this life.  There is no true justice on this earth because life is not fair.  Nothing on this earth can last as they are all passing. Even our relationships will come to an end on earth.  Realizing this, we cannot simply be living for the present.  Whatever we do, our achievements, our successes, wealth and power would have to be left behind when we die.  Those things that we worked on might not even last long after our demise.  Thinking of the transient nature of this life on earth can lead us to give up hope, purpose and meaning.

However, Christian life speaks of a certain hope about the future.  For the Christian, there is a definite future. A Christian does not live in hope for a future but he is clear about the future of humanity.  He knows that the future is full and complete.  Only in the future, in the next life will there be lasting peace, joy and love.  What we have on this earth is just a foretaste.  This is what the scripture readings want to assure us.  The first reading from the prophet Malachi speaks of the Day of the Lord when everything will burn “like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble … leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.”

Indeed, there will be a new order and a new creation where justice, peace, love and righteousness will prevail.  The psalmist declares, “The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice… He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.”  It is this hope of fulfillment in the next world that keeps Christians living a life of hope and love.  Without hope of justice in the next life, there is no reason for us to persevere in truth, in love and in peace.  Without hope of the fullness of life in the next world, there is no reason for us to continue in this life, especially for those of us who are poor, suffering, hungry and sick.

But our hope in the future should not take us away from living fully today.  This is because the future is determined in some ways by today.  This is why St Paul reprimanded the Christians for not being responsible with their lives simply because they were expecting the coming of the Day of the Lord.  Some of them stopped working and lay around idly waiting for the Parousia of the Lord.  Instead St Paul ordered them to continue working.  He said, “We gave you a rule when we were with you: not to let anyone have any food if he refused to do any work… In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.”

The best way to prepare ourselves for the future is to be responsible in the present. When we do what we have to do, according to our responsibilities and calling in life, and faithfully carry out our tasks, we will grow in maturity, in truth and in love.  By facing the challenges of daily life as mentioned in the gospel, whether it is of suffering, tragedy, wars, natural catastrophe, we will mature in love; grow in perfection, in grace and in truth.

Indeed, even whilst preparing for the next life, we should never neglect the presence of Christ already with us here and now.  Whenever we work hard and are absorbed in our work, life has meaning and purpose.  We develop skills and talents and we keep ourselves healthy through work.  Enjoying the present and what the world has to offer gives us a reprieve from mere work alone.  By so doing, the love, joy and peace of God is mediated to us through our work and the people whom we work with.

At the same time, even when things do not always turn out the way we desire, we do not get overly upset because we know that the world is changing.  So we learn to exercise detachment as well and not allow ourselves to be too attached to the things of this world.  Knowing that we are not going to bring them with us, we want to use them for love, service and the good of all.  Living fully in the present, we can then be ready to leave when the time comes for us to be with God.  At the same time, we are mindful of the past as well. We want to learn from our past mistakes and that of our forefathers so that we can grow in wisdom and understanding.  We try to avoid repeating the mistakes of history.  So keeping an eye on the future and an eye on the past whilst having both eyes focused on the present, we live as fully as we can and yet know that our future rests ultimately in God and not in this earth.  When we see everything in perspective, we see the presence of God.

Finally, in our daily struggles to remain authentic to our calling in life, we must rely on the power of God.  Jesus reminded the disciples and assured them in their fears and anxieties:  “Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict.”  The Lord will be with us and He will see us through.  Jesus said, “Your endurance will win you your lives.”