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I. Sunday of Advent 2016

26. November 2016

Choosing the Right Way: Faithfulness in the Light Of The End (Matthew 24:37-44)

Matthew''s ch. 23 ended with a reference to the destruction of the temple (23:38) and to the second coming of Christ (v. 39). These two themes are taken up and expanded in chs. 24-25.

Jesus’ prediction regarding the destruction of the temple (24:1-2) leads to two questions from the disciples in 24:3. The disciples wish to know (1) When will the temple be destroyed? and (2) What will be the sign that the Son of Man is about to return? In his response Jesus does not dwell on these questions but rather focuses on a related and more practical concern: In light of the second coming of Christ, how ought persons to live?

Mt 24:4-44 provides four answers to this question.

First, disciples must take every precaution that they not be deceived by false Christs who will appear (vv. 4, 5, 11, 24). Jesus predicts that persecutions and catastrophes will occur throughout the remainder of history (vv. 5-14) and will be especially oppressive at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (vv. 15-28; Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70). Such events will spawn false prophets (v. 11) who will declare themselves to be the returning Christ. Jesus warns his disciples beforehand that such persons are mere pretenders, for when Jesus returns it will be with unmistakable glory and majesty (vv. 27-31).

Second, followers of Jesus must not be alarmed at tribulations, wars, and disasters (24:4-14). These are simply part of ongoing history and in themselves do not indicate that the end is near.
 

Third, disciples are to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of tribulations and persecutions, knowing that only those who endure will receive eternal salvation when Christ returns (24:9-14).

Fourth, disciples must be sure they are ready at all times for Christ’s return. They should realize that Christ may return at any moment, and therefore they should live constantly as though they expect him to return immediately. This is what Jesus means by watch (24:42). Such watching is essential, because no one knows when Jesus will come again for judgment (24:36-44).

Jesus expands upon this theme of constant readiness in 24:45-25:46. The parable of the wicked servant (24:45-51) indicates that leaders in the church should perform their service always with an eye toward the fact that Jesus may return at any moment. The parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13) poignantly expresses the tragedy of experiencing the second coming of Christ unprepared. Both of these parables refer to the delay of Christ’s coming: Persons must beware that the long wait for the return of Jesus does not lead to apathy and carelessness.

The parable of the talents (25:14-30) suggests that readiness involves active service. Christians who (because of laziness and lack of affection for God) refuse to use the gifts God has given them for his work will encounter an angry and judging Christ when he returns.

This section reaches its climax with a scene of the Last Judgment (25:31-46). This passage dramatically reveals that disciples prepare themselves for the second coming of Christ by doing good to those who are in need. All will be judged according to the way in which they have treated Christ. The surprise of the Last Day is that they have unknowingly encountered Christ in the persons of the poor and needy. As persons have treated those in need, so they have treated Christ.

 
 

ACTUALIZATION: Peace is at hand!

On July 26, 2016 Fr. Jacques Hamel was murdered in his Church by a Muslim extremist. It is really important that we remember that people like Fr Jacques Hamel, or the Christians celebrating Easter in Pakistan, or the nun shot dead in Somalia, or the many Christians murdered in churches in Kenya, are not posing any danger to anyone. They are not provoking anyone either. If this is war, it is a war being fought by one side only. And indeed, even in words, the war is one sided. The threats uttered by Muslims towards Christians are blood curdling; there is no Christian equivalent to ISIS and its propaganda machine. Christianity is not at war with anyone: it is the victim of Muslim warmongers having merely the cloak of religion, but underneath being motivated by something else entirely, such as economic motives.

In fact, this interpretation of terrorism is very common, and predates the current situation. In Northern Ireland, in the 1970s, it was commonly averred that the Troubles were only coincidentally a religious conflict, but were in fact a conflict that sprang from entrenched social inequalities. This was up to a point true, but to see it as a complete explanation is to ignore the roles played by culture, history, community structures and beliefs.

Can we say that contemporary Islamist terrorism is rooted in social and economic inequalities? It must be true that social and economic inequalities do not help, and that in a country like France the Muslim community feels itself to be somehow excluded from national life. This seems to be beyond question. The sort of young men who are drawn to terrorism are clearly not integrated into society; if they were, they might have found better things to do with themselves.

But this raises the major question: are they not integrated because their religion prevents them from integrating into the French mainstream? This is the question that needs to be confronted: is the link between terrorism and Islam merely extrinsic or is it intrinsic?

At present, in Europe, one undoubted truth is evident, and that is that almost all our terrorists are Muslim young men. The majority seem to be born Muslim, but a significant number are converts. But are these disaffected Muslim young men somehow being used by “interests”?

This seems unlikely, simply because the sort of actions that these terrorists carry out are not coherent, and do not seem to have any intelligible aim in view. Like the founder of modern terrorism, Osama Bin Laden, but unlike previous movements, such as the IRA, they have no set of demands, no negotiating position, and cannot be brought into a peace process, as peace is not their aim.

Perhaps we should face up to the alternative, namely, that ISIS is serious about its stated aims, and it is what it says it is: the caliphate in arms, an attempt to resurrect the supposed state of affairs that existed in the 7th century. In other words, its inspiration comes from inside Islam (albeit a rather recondite current in Islam) and not from outside it.

“This is not a war of religions.” It is, albeit only on one side.

ICCG believes that building bridges of peace is always possible!

This is one example.

Promoting peace and conflict resolution throughout the world

On October 12th 1984, the IRA (Irish Republican Army) exploded a bomb in the Grand Hotel, Brighton, during the Conservative Party Conference killing 5 people and injuring many more. Amongst those killed was Sir Anthony Berry MP.

The family of Sir Anthony Berry were devastated, but for his daughter Jo, it also started a life-long mission for peace.

“I was 27 when my father was killed, and within two days of that it was important for me to find something positive out of it, to bring some meaning and to even understand those who killed him.”
Jo Berry

16 years later, Patrick Magee – the man who planted the bomb – was released from prison and Jo arranged to meet him. As they listened to each other’s story, they came to realise that this was the beginning of a journey of peace and reconciliation to which they were inextricably bound.

The charity Building Bridges for Peace was launched in Brighton in October 2009 – on the 25th anniversary of the bombing.
 

Building Bridges for Peace works to enable divided communities and the general public to explore and better understand the roots of war, terrorism and violence. We promote dialogue and mediation as the means to peace.

Jo Berry and Pat Magee have given talks in Palestine, Lebanon, Rwanda and throughout the UK.

To be a subject of a grievous wrong is always wounding and painful and can frequently provoke anger.

However, anger, if allowed to fester is like a cancer of the soul. It does more harm to those who hold it than against those whom it is held.

Jo Berry knows from personal experience what it is to have to face deep suffering as her father was blown up in a IRA bomb. She has let go of personal need for revenge and empathised with Patrick Magee, the man responsible for planting the bomb.

To hear her speak alongside the one who killed her father is a living demonstration of the transforming power of reconciliation when two people who have been on different sides truly listen and can see each other’s humanity, an example this sad world so desperately need.

 

Activity

Aim: Participants should realize how is good or bad spreading thanks to human interactions and how we can change our behavior tho help the good

Target group: 12 year olds

Location: anywhere

Duration: 3 hours

This activity develops the idea, that we are spreading good or bad every minute of our lives and it’s thanks to our reaction to different situations. For example when we do something bad to somebody we can immediately see consequence of our action, but we don''t see further - our victim can get angry on another human being and so on. And that''s the beginning of series of events, which can be hard to stop.

And now to the activity itself. We divide kids into three equally large groups. First group creates and then plays a short scene with something that is happening  "in the morning" (eg. family wakes up and they go to school and work), which ends unfinished with the beginning of conflict.

The other two groups have to finish this scene "in the afternoon" or "in the evening"- one group should end with happy ending and the other with unhappy one.

Requirement is that both groups uses certain amount of people through the whole play, this have to be set at the beginning.

The groups have to deal with challenge, how to  build on the initial encounter scenes and how to develop it further in favor of evil or good.

 

Very important is final reflection, please set aside enough time for it. Go through all of the scenes and let people share their experiences and opinions: How character could have behaved? How they can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts? How they can help to spread good not bad? What options and actions were possible? And so on...