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Salvation beyond appearances

Salvation beyond appearances

The perspective of the coming of the Lord, both on the Last Day and in our earthly life, can be a source of great fear and anxiety. God’s love revealed in the Crucified Christ is the assurance that the meeting with the Lord will be the true fulfilment and not the disruption of our happiness.

Reading: Luke 21:20-28

The following homily was preached to the student brothers at compline. You can listen here or read below:

 

What is striking in Luke’s account of what we usually call “the end of the world” is the contrast between the two entirely different reactions that people have towards the cosmic signs that accompany the completion of all things.

Some people are described as fainting from terror; some translations even go as far as saying that they die because of the very thought of what is about to happen, literally “scared to death”. Others, instead, are invited by Jesus not only not to fear what is happening but even to breathe a sigh of relief and to welcome, at last, the liberation for which they had longed so much.

So, the same magnificent signs that mark the coming of the Lord are, at the same time, a great cause of joy for some and an unbearable source of anxiety for others. It seems, then, that we human beings are all bound to face the same cosmic and existential upheavals in our journey towards the peace of the Kingdom; but, in the meanwhile, the ways we cope with the various stages of this process, at times painful and dreadful, can be very different from individual to individual.

And this same dynamic applies not only to the last coming of Christ but also to the daily coming of the Lord in our life. We are close to Advent, and it is good to recall that Saint Bernard, among others, also mentions a third intermediate coming of Christ, the coming of the Lord through grace during the days of our earthly existence. And also in our daily life, we can find ourselves living different attitudes towards the future, especially when all sorts of “catastrophes” befall us.

If we look at the life of the saints, we see the joyful way they lived and the immense trust in the moment of their death.

At the same time, perhaps more often, we can see in ourselves and so many other people all sorts of fears, from the more superficial things to the deepest and most existential issues. For many reasons, this life can become a sky filled with obscurity, with no sun or moon providing light to our path. Any little or big change can be seen as a threat as scary as the sea tossing and roaring around us. And, finally, there is the inevitability of death that seems to put an end to any conceivable hope.

The reason why such different approaches are possible depends on the viewpoint we assume. The good news we Christians have received is a radically different viewpoint on reality. God has taught us to look beyond even the most dreadful appearances. Indeed, the sign of the salvation of all the world is the apparent failure of the Cross.

And so, just as the Son of Man coming on the cloud will be the sign of liberation on the Last Day, likewise the Cross of the Lord is the sign of our salvation now, in this life. The Crucified Christ is the source of all truth about God and, hence, the revelation of our real condition. The God who has become like us and has loved us till the end frees us from the image of a God enemy of humanity, a careless and merciless judge of the world. The true God is always on our side!

The letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus has freed those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death because of the devil (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15). It is he, the father of lies, who has insinuated in us the image of an antagonistic God who has condemned us to a miserable existence. The deep fear we experience in our inmost heart is the fear that Adam felt in Eden hearing the steps of the Lord. God, the Creator who had given everything to His creature, had become an enemy to fear and to hide from.

But God’s love, ultimately revealed on the Cross, uncovers this lie, and assures that the ultimate meaning and end of our life is eternal joy with Him!

The Lord who comes, both at the end of times and in the unfolding of our personal time in this world, is not the thief who comes to steal our happiness, but the Bridegroom who comes to fulfil our deep desire to love and be loved. Without fear but with eager longing, as we look forward to Advent, let us then repeat the ancient invocation of the first Christian communities: ‘Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”.

 

Image: Second Coming of Christ

Br Giovanni Castellano was born in Italy in 2000. He attended high school in his small town in Sicily, and then he joined the Order of Preachers in the Province of St Thomas Aquinas, in southern Italy. After one year of postulancy, he entered the noviciate in 2020. He is now living in Oxford, where he is beginning his first year at Blackfriars Studium. Before becoming a friar, he enjoyed travelling a lot, and so is it now, as well! In his free time, he likes reading good books and spending time with old and new friends.
giovannicastellano.00@gmail.com

Comments (3)

  • Miriam D. F. Russell

    This is the Good News indeed! A very, very welcome reminder of the true nature of things; of God’s all-encompassing love for us, and of the lies of the Devil, making us fear the father, the brother, who gave His life for us. We should welcome death, and the end of times as well, with great joy that now the promise is coming to its fulfillment and we will finally be inseparable from our God.

    reply
  • Robert

    A truly uplifting homily Br Giovanni. Thank you’

    reply
  • Gregoria "Yogi" Smith, O.P.

    What a beautiful reading. It’s a blessing to learn not to fear bodily death but to look forward with hope of our salvation. And the joy of coming face to face with our LORD. Blessed be GOD forever!

    reply

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