Mal 3:19-20a; Ps 98:5-9; 2 Thes. 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
The readings today are teaching us a central truth of a genuinely Christian lifestyle. That central truth is ‘ordered living’. In a word, JUSTICE. Psalm 98 today proclaims that, “The Lord will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.” The biblical sense of justice is Right Relationship: Right relationship with God, with each other and with the whole of Creation. Ordered living.
The second reading from 2 Thessalonians (3:7-12) today tells us, “For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you… we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.”
Mal. 3:19 The day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts.
Lk. 21:17 I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
What kind of Wisdom would that be? Irrefutable Wisdom? Possibly the witness of well-ordered living in our families and in our neighborhoods? Even in our nation?
This past week I watched a youtube of President John Kennedy’s 1963 speech to a massive assembly of West Berlin residents. “Iche ben ein Berliner.” The West Germans had been divided from their families and loved ones by a huge wall constructed by the Soviet Union. The wall was designed to keep the East Berliners on the east side so they couldn’t escape to democracy. In a world where the Communist and Democratic powers were in a severe competition to influence other nations, this distinction was very important. Kennedy kept emphasizing the need to visit Berlin if you want to see the difference and then added that, ‘no democracies had to build a wall to keep their citizens in’. Despite the many problems in democratic countries the better choice seems irrefutable. Without even reading the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights, the proof seemed obvious. I think this is part of the ‘wisdom’ Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel. It’s also part of the ‘order’ and ‘disorder’ St. Paul is talking about in the second reading.
Likewise, the thousands of people currently awaiting immigration permission at our U.S. borders have made a choice for an irrefutably better option. You don’t even need to have a debate or a master’s degree in government or history. It’s irrefutably better than where they are coming from. This ‘Wisdom’ is obvious to anyone able to see the difference between order and disorder.
The first reading today from Malachi identifies the proud as a big source of the disorder among people. When some people continuously insist on their entitlement to more wealth and luxury in the face of others’ misery, there is inevitably an increase in disorder. There are serious consequences in this world and the next for those who foster disorder. A blazing fire which will reduce the evildoers to stubble. This destruction is always the result of disordered living.
The problem is not just the wealthy as Paul reminds us in Thessalonians. Disorder flows from all the people who don’t want to work in a way that is consistent with the gifts that God has given them. Everyone has the responsibility to live a well-ordered and responsible life. Again as Paul suggests, to be a model for the others.
Justice is also another way of describing ‘stewardship’: the acknowledgement that everything good comes from God and that each person has the responsibility to share their time, talent and treasure in proportion to what God has given them. One of the roles of a free people is to support each other’s’ wise decisions for ordered living. There should be little excess poverty or luxury. This is different than Communism obviously because it is self-imposed by a free and prayerful people who have learned how to discern God’s will over the decades and centuries.
We are living in an age when we can see more clearly the consequences of disordered living. We can waste our freedoms and reduce ourselves to ‘stubble’ if we don’t rediscover God’s presence and plan in our lives….
How are we modeling ‘ordered living’ for coming generations, both here and abroad? Who holds us accountable? How do we explain our priorities and values? How will our model hold up in the world that we are passing along to the great-grandchildren? How will they imitate us? Will they even want to?