“The day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.” As the Church’s year draws to its conclusion, the words of the Prophet Malachi remind us that the time entrusted to us is not indeterminate. Day by day, hour by hour, we make the choices that place us either with God or against him.
Although we sometimes have little urgency concerning the direction of our lives, God’s time is charged with purpose, leading all things to a final conclusion in The Day of the Lord. The Old Testament consistently described this day as a day of judgment, a day of justice when each person would be revealed in the choices that they have made. Those who had chosen arrogance and evil would be destroyed like the stubble. On those who had chosen the Lord, the sun of righteousness would shine with healing rays.
God is indeed merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and forgiveness. He is also the God of truth who, at the end of time, will judge what we have chosen to become. At this time of the year the Church reminds us of the coming judgment not as a threat, but as an invitation to live each day as a precious gift in which we choose the Lord.
When Jesus proclaimed that in him the Kingdom of God was close at hand, he did so as an encouragement to his disciples. The day of the Lord, foretold by the prophets, is already begun in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. In the words of St Paul, we are already living in the “final days”. These final days are not, initially, a judgment. They are a season of grace, the opportunity to die with Christ so as to rise with him. This we do in the choices that we make day by day. Sadly, our choices are frequently dominated by the superficial rather than the values that endure.
Jesus pointed this out to his disciples when they marvelled at the splendour of the Jerusalem Temple. His response was unhesitating: “All these things that you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another.”
We should see these words not simply as a reference to the imminent destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans, but as a challenge to the superficiality of so much that dominates our lives. The words of Jesus inevitably alarmed his disciples, and they were anxious to know precisely when the end and final judgment would come. Jesus resolutely refused to enter any discussion concerning when the end would come. All of his remarks were directed to the present moment.
The future in not in our hands. Our faith is lived in the present, a time when we choose Christ despite opposition. A time when virtue inevitably attracts ridicule and sometimes outright opposition. Jesus promised his disciples that they would not be alone in all that lay ahead. “Keep this in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. Your endurance will win your lives.”
We should never forget that time is leading to judgment. We prepare for that judgment by choosing to live each present moment in God’s grace.