To Dare — With Boldness toward God
by V. Rev. Fr. James C. Meena
On the Saturday of Meat Fare the Gospel Lesson speaks of the coming of the Son of man and the cosmic disasters which will precede that coming, (St. Luke 21:25-28).
Jesus tells of the signs that will portend His coming because He had previously for-warned His disciples, "Take care not to be deceived because many will come using my name and saying; 'I am He' and 'the time is near at hand.' Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions do not be afraid for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon. Then He said unto them, nation will fight against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famine here and there. There will be frightful sights and great signs from heaven," (v. 8-11). I think that we may be witnessing some of the sights and signs from heaven today, but I also think it would be safe to say that men and women throughout history have seen sights and signs which they have interpreted as being prophecies of the end of time. But Jesus says, "the end is not so soon." In other words He is saying no man knows when that end is going to be, therefore no man can prophecy the end. Only the Son of God knows. But Jesus is compassionate and He knows that we are governed very much by the human condition and that our faith is not always the faith that is consistent with being His disciples. He says there is really a very simple formula for us to follow if we are really worried about the end of time. He said, "Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap, for it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen and to stand with confidence before the Son of man," (v.2 8).
I love that last statement, "To stand with confidence before the Son of man." Not to stand there like craven cowards fearing to make an account of our lives but, knowing that we have really tried, I mean really tried to live a life of commitment and dedication, a life worthy to be called His disciples, that we approach Him, as we say in the Liturgy, "With boldness that we may dare to call upon Thee, our heavenly Father." In this age of end of time theology, in this age when people are coming forward and saying "Lo He is here, or Lo He is there' or The end is coming soon". I must insistantly caution you that no real Christian has anything to fear regarding the end of time. Indeed, although our bodies may die, we know that our souls will live in Christ forever because our souls have already died once, and having died in Christ once they cannot die again. They died and were buried with Him in Baptism and when we were lifted out of that burial of water we were raised in His resurrection and we have confidence that we can stand before His judgment seat, that we can withstand by His grace all temptations and trials.
I don't worry much about the end of time. I think I can withstand all of that. What bothers me, and I think what Jesus is warning us against, are the more subtle destructive forces by which we are surrounded and by which we can be corrupted. The temptation to practice immorality, to forget about those who are less fortunate than we are. Those are the subtleties that can literally destroy us and divorce us from the presence of God. The end of time theologians are very fond of quoting from the 6th and 7th chapters of the Book of Revelations. Can you imagine that since the creation of the world with all of the hundreds of millions of people that have been born that only 144 thousand would be saved. Does that impress you as being the judgment of a just and merciful God? I think not. But what the end of time theologians refuse to tell us is what follows immediately in the ninth verse of the seventh chapter of Revelations . . . "After that (after the 144 thousand) I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language that were standing in front of the throne and in front of the lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, victory to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb. And all the angels who were standing in a circle around the throne surrounding the elders and the four animals prostrated themselves before the throne and touched the ground with their foreheads worshiping God with these words. . . 'Amen. . . praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever, Amen.' One of the elders then spoke and asked me, 'do you know who these people are dressed in white robes and where they have come from?' I answered him…"you can tell me my Lord,' then He said, 'these are the people who have been through the great persecution and because they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the lamb they now stand in front of God's Throne and serve Him day and night in His sanctuary, and the one who sits on the Throne will spread His tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again. Neither the sun nor the scorching wind will ever plague them because the lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Beloved who can fear the end? Who can succumb to end of time preaching when we read in the Book of Revelations promises for those who remain steadfast? These latter people of whom Revelations speak are those people who endure the persecution and you've heard me say that the persecution is now, in the communications media, in the hands of special interest groups who would deny us our human and religious rights, in the hands of those who would tempt us to fall away from worshiping our God, in the hands of those who say that formal religion no longer has any place in our society, and those who try to convince our young people that the Church is no longer meaningful or necessary. The persecution is in the hands of those who tempt us to turn on to drugs, to drop out of society, to live a life of irresponsibility. That is how we are being persecuted, you and I, and we either succumb to that persecution and all the other subtleties of which I have spoken, and the many that I cannot mention due to time, or we remain steadfast, we stand upright knowing that in the end we will be able to look Christ right in the eye and say, "Lord, I am your servant and I approach Thee in Thy judgment seat with confidence."
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America