The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached today at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Using the propers for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for the Twenty-sixth and Last Sunday after Pentecost.
Our Lord [today] speaks not only of His own end, but also of the end of all things. And so we are allowed to hear His whisperings to the disciples not only to look back with understanding, but also to look forward with faith. And as we look forward, let us keep in mind the central statement in Our Lord’s discourse: then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven.
These words are central because they remind us how we are to read the signs. For all these signs—the darkened sun, the unlit moon, the falling stars, the wars and rumors of wars, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulations, the false Christs, and even the carcass-feeding vultures—all these signs both bring to mind Our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection, and proclaim that Good Friday and Easter are the apex of all world history—and the one event that forever reverberates in eternity. So everything points to and comes from and—yes, for us at this Mass—leads to Our Lord’s glorious sacrifice. All events, good and bad, find their meaning and purpose in the Christ who came down and even now, in this place, re-presents His scarred yet resurrected Body for us men and for our salvation. And so, as hear about the horrors of the past; and as we see frightfully inexplicable events unfold before our eyes; and as we hear predictions of future terrors—all these things must be seen in the light of the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.
Yet as we use Our Lord’s sign to understand the signs of the times, we ought to quickly discover that Our Lord whispers today not about Himself, not about His life or suffering; rather, He whispers, kindly and gently and mercifully, about our life in Him, and what we must be prepared to face for His sake. For as Our Lord speaks, surely we must never forget what He had said before; namely, that he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.
Our Lord’s words, then, direct us not only to consider the meaning of His Passion, but also the possibility and meaning of our own. Our Lord’s words urge us not only to look back and ahead, but also to look within, so that we might realize the struggles, the wrestlings, and the inner turmoil that we endure. And Our Lord’s words point us not only to the mystery of His suffering, or the mystery of others’ suffering, but also to the mystery of our own suffering and death.