Archive for November, 2012
Thomas Edison, a famous inventor, known for his extraordinary diligence, observes: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
The theme of today’s Gospel narrative is perseverance. Jesus warns his disciples of the coming sufferings, persecutions and divisions as a result of their choice to follow Jesus as their teacher, lord and savior and promises salvation if and when they persevere in the face of trials to the very end: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).
Persecution for righteousness sake is a permanent feature of Christianity. It is indispensable consequence for following the Lord. The call to follow Jesus is the call to take up and carry the cross daily. This is understandable because the more we follow Jesus the more we become like Jesus. And the more we become Jesus, the more the world will hate us. As the Lord was persecuted and suffered in the hands of the Jews, so will his followers be. No disciple is greater than his Master.
Yes, suffering, trials and persecution cannot be avoided but “whoever perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22). Somebody once said that Christianity is not for starter but for finisher. Hence, James assures anyone who perseveres to the end of happiness and eternal life: “Happy is the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promise to those who love him” (Jas 3:12).
What are some of the qualities of a persevering person or a person willing to persevere to the end for the faith he professed? Persevering person possesses a combination of three traits: energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trials.
“The call to discipleship is a call to continue. To carry on. To persist. To endure. To finish. The Lord needs finishers, those who make the commitment and then walk the road—no matter the difficulty or challenge—to the very end” (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship). Hence, never
give up, nor give in. Don’t quit. Take this similar reminder from General Douglas MacArthur: “Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.”
Faithful to the mission received, the Church today needs disciples who are ready and willing to persevere to the end even to the point of sacrifice and death. Be ready, therefore, to suffer and to die for the sake of Christ and his Gospel. Remember, “Christianity is not for the cowards”, said St. Athanasius. In doing so, you will receive the crown of eternal life promised by the Lord at the same time proclaimed, built up and spread the Kingdom of God here on earth. As St. Irenaeus beautifully puts it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”
The Temple played an important part in the life of Israel fundamentally because the Temple was considered God’s own house, His dwelling place on earth in the midst of his people. The Jews believed that God lives in heaven, but he hears the prayers that are addressed to him in the Temple. They looked upon the Temple as a sort of good luck charm that would protect them against hostile forces, whether or not they lived so as to deserve protection (Jer 7:1-15; 26:1-15; see Exod 8-10).
The Temple played an important part in the life of the Israel secondarily as place of worship and sacrifice or assembly. Although there were many shrines throughout the land, particularly during the period of judges, the Temple is said to be the center of legitimate worship; indeed as the only place of worship in Israel; and it is true that eventually it was recognized as such.
Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the temple of Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth (Lk 2:22-39). At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business (Cf. Lk:46-49). He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover (Cf. Lk 2:41). His public ministry was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts (Cf. Jn 2:13-14; 5:1; 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8:2; 10:22-23) (CCC 583).
Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer. In today’s Gospel narrative, he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce (Cf. Mt 21:13). So, he drove merchants out of it and commanded them: “You shall not make the my Father’s house a house of trade (Luke 19:46).
Christ gave reason for his dislodging the temple-merchants (Lk 19:46). The temple is a house of prayer, set apart for communion with God: the buyers and sellers made it a den of thieves by the fraudulent bargains they made there, which were hurting the poor and the pilgrims who can least afford them, for it would be a distraction to those who came there to pray.
What are some of the possible moral applications that we can take from this narrative?
First, the Temple is God’s house, His dwelling place in the midst of His people here on earth. Hence, it is sacred that demands due care and reverence. Profanation or desecration through sexual immoralities, murder, divination and occult, idolatry, immodest attire and gestures and blasphemous words must be avoided at all times, at all costs and by all means.
Second, the Temple is a place of worship and sacrifice. Make this as your motivation and purpose in going to the Church and keep them clear. Hence, never go to Church to steal, to slander, to boast your riches, power and beautiful body, to do business, to give intrigue and scandal, to observe passively as spectators and strangers and to sleep.
Third, the Temple is a place set apart, dedicated and consecrated for the glorification of God and sanctification of humankind. Hence, other uses or functions like making the Church or chapel a place of eating; seminar or conference hall, rest house, study hall, concert hall and stage for the program or any ceremony must be avoided, if not, prohibited.
Fourth, the Church is the fulfillment of the Temple. Hence, we must have a passionate love for the Church. In the new covenant of Jesus, the Temple is fulfilled in the Church. The Church is so important in God’s plan that Jesus calls the Church His body (e.g. Eph 1:22-23) and His bride (see Eph 5:25ff). Jesus has given the Church the keys of God’s kingdom (Mt 16:19). Jesus loves the Church so much that He died for her (Eph 5:25). “Christians of the first centuries said, ‘The world was created for the sake of the Church’ ” (Catechism, 760). “The Church is the goal of all things” (Catechism, 760).
Pray that you will love the Church as much as Jesus wants you to love her. Ask Him to cleanse your temple of all sins (see Lk 19:46ff), especially pride and selfishness, so that you will love His Temple, the Church, as He does. Dedicate and consecrate once again yourself to the Lord (see 1 Mc 4:54ff). Because you are a member of His body, your constant dedication and consecration will build up the Church. Live and die for Jesus and for His Church.
Jesus’ earthly ministry centers and culminates in Jerusalem, the holy city, dwelling and throne of God (Jeremiah 3:17ff.); the place which God chose for his name to dwell there (1Kings 11:13); and the holy mountain upon which God has set his king (Psalm 2). Jerusalem derives its name from the word “salem” which mean “peace”. The temple in Jerusalem was a constant reminder to the people of God’s presence with them. Why does Jesus weep and lament for this city?
All this moved Jesus to tears because he saw something which others did not see. He saw the coming destruction of the city. He knew that all of his efforts to avert the tragedy had been repulsed and rejected (Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 588). As prophesied by Jesus, it did happen. William Barclay describes the tragic event:
“Jerusalem fell to the Roman armies in A.D. 70 after a desperate siege in which the inhabitants were actually reduced to cannibalism and in which the city had to be taken literally stone by stone. Josephus says that an incredible number of 1,100,000 people perished in the siege and 97,000 were carried away into captivity. The Jewish nation was obliterated; and the Temple was fired and became a desolation.”
It was indeed a tragic moments of destruction, loss, and shame to the chosen people and nation of God. Only Jewish Christians who remembered and heeded God’s warning were spared on that unforgettable event in the life of the Jews and Israel. As James E. Talmage vividly writes:
“The warning to all to flee from Jerusalem and Judea to the mountains when the armies would begin to surround the city was so generally heeded by members of the Church, that according to the early Church writers not one Christian perished in the awful siege (see Eusebius, Eccles. Hist., book iii, ch. 5)…As to the unprecedented horrors of the siege, which culminated in the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, see Josephus, Wars vi, chaps. 3 and 4. That historian estimates the number slain in Jerusalem alone as 1,100,000 and in other cities and rural parts a third as many more. For details see Josephus, Wars ii, chaps. 18, 20; iii, 2, 7, 8, 9; iv, 1, 2, 7, 8, 9; vii, 6, 9, 11. Many tens of thousands were taken captive, to be afterward sold into slavery, or to be slain by wild beasts, or in gladiatorial combat in the arena for the amusement of Roman spectators.
“In the course of the siege, a wall was constructed about the entire city, thus fulfilling the Lord’s prediction (Luke 19:43), ‘thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee,’ in which, by the admittedly better translation, ‘bank,’ or ‘palisade’ should appear instead of ‘trench.’ In September A.D. 70 the city fell into the hands of the Romans; and its destruction was afterward made so thorough that its site was plowed up. Jerusalem was ‘trodden down of the Gentiles,’ and ever since has been under Gentile dominion, and so shall continue to be ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled’ (Luke 21:24) (Jesus the Christ, 545).
Why did this tragedy happen to the chosen people of God even in Jerusalem considered to be a holy city, a dwelling and throne of God? Because the Jews remain in their stubbornness of heart and in their unbelief. These great destruction, misery and humiliation would have been avoided if, and only if, the Jews had received the Son of God, hailed him as Lord and Savior of mankind, and led the campaign for all nations to accept his authority. If, and only if, the Jews had recognized the time and the visitation of your God in Christ Jesus they would have been converted, believed and followed Jesus who is Prince of peace and the source and model of that renewed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity, and a peaceful spirit…” (Vatican II).
What is the main message for all of us? If and when we also persist in our stubbornness of heart, arrogance, unbelief, sinfulness and wickedness we will also suffer the same fate. Let us, therefore, heed God’s call to repentance, conversion, and new life in Christ. Today, if we hear the voice of God harden not our hearts. Let us repent and believe in Jesus and his Gospel while it is not too late! Ask God for a new heart and a new mind. Ask God that He will take away our stubborn heart of stone and give us an obedient heart (see Ez 36:26).
In this parable the main theme is stewardship. It answers question on how to handle all the gifts of nature and grace which God has given us. To be a true steward, they should be handled wisely, responsibly and productively. They should yield a profit or bear fruit. It does not matter how many gifts we have received; what matters is our generosity in putting them to good use. We will be judged by God based on our stewardship at the end of time.
This parable gives us five points to be considered in pursuing the virtue of stewardship:
First, God gives to every man according to his several ability (see Matthew 25:15). Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Lk 12:48). The true standard for distribution of wealth is not, as expressed by the Marxist view, “to each according to his need,” but rather to each “according to his ability.” The reason lies in the fact that without ability, even that which a man receives shall be wasted, neglected, or diminished, and in the law of economic progress there can never be, in the final analysis, any substitute for ability.
“Some of us are too quick to assume that we are the second- and third-string players or that we are spiritual klutzes. We forget that God, in his perfect judgment, adjusts credit and blame to allow for the circumstances of the individual in question. The gospel is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ arrangement in that regard. God puts us all in different circumstances in this life and judges us accordingly. In the Parable of the Talents, it didn’t matter that one servant had been given five talents and the other only two. What mattered most was what both servants did with what God gave them. The Master said to each of them, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ (“Matt. 25:21Matthew 25:21). It is better to be a faithful second-string player with limited talents (pun intended) than to be an unfaithful superstar” (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, 34.).
Second, gifts and graces are not only to be preserved but to be develop to make it productive for the common good of all.
“Now we come to the one-talent servant (see “Mt 25:26-30). We are saddened and disappointed in this part of the drama because first there was an excuse, then a display of the fear that caused him to hide the talent. He had been afraid to assume the responsibility. His attitude was one of resentment and faultfinding, saying he found the master to be a hard man, even harvesting where he had not sown. There are many in the world like this servant, idle and unwilling to work for their master—interested only in themselves. There are those who become so involved in the things of the world and their own selfish interests that they will not make the attempt or put forth the effort to magnify one little talent entrusted to them by the Lord.” (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 262.)
“Likewise the Church member who has the attitude of leaving it to others will have much to answer for. There are many who say: ‘My wife does the Church work!’ Others say: ‘I’m just not the religious kind,’ as though it does not take effort for most people to serve and do their duty. But God has endowed us with talents and time, with latent abilities and with opportunities to use and develop them in his service. He therefore expects much of us, his privileged children. The parable of the talents is a brilliant summary of the many scriptural passages outlining promises for the diligent and penalties for the slothful. (see “Mt. 25:14-30.) From this we see that those who refuse to use their talents in God’s cause can expect their potential to be removed and given to someone more worthy. Like the unproductive fig tree (see Mt. 21:18-20) their barren lives will be cursed. To them on judgment day will come the equivalent of these devastating words:
’. . . Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers—. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents—. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Mt. 25:26-29, 30.)” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 100).
Third, gifts and graces are entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away; not for our own gain, but for the Lords’ purposes here upon earth. The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service.
“The special talents with which we have been blessed—our intelligence, physical abilities, time, money, and the many opportunities given to us—have come from the Lord. They have been entrusted to us to be used, not for safekeeping or to be hidden away. These were given to us according to our ability to use—not for our own gain, but for the Lord’s purposes here upon earth. We are like tenant farmers, who, given the use of the land, make their own selection as to the crop they will raise, and they work according to their own skill and desire to work. Some have the ability to sow, cultivate, and raise a bounteous crop, but others are less successful. There are some persons who will work hard and produce, while others, lacking initiative and desire, will fail. The day comes, however, when an accounting must be made” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 271.).
Fourth,“to every one that has shall be given…but from him that has not shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29)
Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have. There is an important lesson here for us. No one can stand still for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you earnestly seek to serve God with the gifts, talents, and graces he has given to you?
“The Lord expects us to use our talents in his service.Those who use their talents find they will grow. One who exercises his strength finds it will increase. If we sow a seed, it will grow; if we fail to plant, it will be lost. One who possesses some insight and is attentive to his teacher will gain more knowledge and insight and will have growth in mind and spiritual understanding. Understanding increases as it is used. As we learn, we acquire greater capacity to learn. As we use our opportunities for knowledge, more opportunities come to us. How sad it is when the opposite course is followed, and talent and capacity are wasted and not used. ‘From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath’ (Matthew 25:29).
“ServiceTalentsa-Hunter, Howard W.TPTalents are not given to us to be put on display or to be hidden away, but to be used. The Master expects us to make use of them. He expects us to venture forth and increase what we have been given according to our capacities and abilities (see Matthew 25:26-30). As servants of the Lord, we should use every opportunity to employ our talents in his service. To fail to do so means to lose them. If we do not increase, we decrease. Our quest is to seek out the talents the Lord has given us and to develop and multiply them, whether they be five, two, or one. We need not attempt to imitate the talents given to other persons.” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 70.)
Fifth, God rewards those who are faithful, responsible and productive stewards and he punishes those irresponsible, unwise and non-productive stewards. God is not going to judge us by the way we use what we do not possess, but by the use we make of the gifts that are actually our own. When he (Christ) comes, the slothful and unprofitable will be cast out, not because they did not believe, or because they had rebelled, but because they had neglected the opportunities which he had committed to them.
In connection with the theme of stewardship, the return of the lord in the parable is symbolic of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time there will be an accounting, and those that are found wanting will be cast into outer darkness while the saints enter into the peace and joy of the Lord.
“Imagine what the Judgment will be like for us individually. Suppose that when we meet the Master there is a frown, and He turned and shook His head and turned sadly away. Can you imagine anything that would be quite so discouraging or quite so heartbreaking? There will be nothing so terrifying to the human soul as to be told on resurrection morning that they will have to wait a thousand years before they shall come forth from the grave in resurrection. But imagine instead of that, He smiles, He opens his arms, and says, ‘Come into my presence. You have been faithful in a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.’” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams, 68.)
All things such as created things, gifts, talents and blessings are God’s, and we must watch over and care for them in honor of Him and in the sanctification of man. Jesus warns us in a parable to be faithful, responsible, and productive stewards , because when he comes again, we will be judged for our stewardship (Lk 12:41-48). Let us, therefore, make good use of the gifts, talents, time, and resources He gives us for his glory and for every one’s sanctification. “Be fruitful!” (Gn 1:28)
Jesus was passing through Jericho from the area of Jordan to Bethany near Jerusalem. He was on his way to raise Lazarus back to life. It was an important journey that he was undertaking but as he was going to perform this great miracle he still found time to deal with other people and their issues and needs and wants. The need that was going to delay him for a while was a man called Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector.
He is a small man, too short to see over the crowd. Zacchaeus, an abbreviation of Zechariah, means “the righteous one”– a big name to live up to.
The Roman empire had no officials of its own for the collection of taxes: in each country it used local people for this purpose. These were free to engage agents (hence we find reference to “chief tax collectors”: cf. Luke 19:2). The global amount of tax for each region was specified by the Roman authorities; the tax collectors levied more than this amount, keeping the surplus for themselves: this led them to act rather arbitrarily, which was why the people hated them. In the case of the Jews, insult was added to injury by the fact that the chosen people were being exploited by Gentiles.
They were treated as the worst kind of sinners going, as they were sinning through choice and not ignorance. They were classed as untouchables, people to be shunned at all cost. Some other occupations that were classed as sinners were barbers, tanners, shepherds; they were all immoral jobs but at the top of this list were tax collectors. The moral equivalent of tax collectors were traitors, murderers and infidels.
Having considered this we can somehow say that the name is incongruous for Zacchaeus, since he is the chief tax collector in Jericho, and tax collectors were notorious for cheating the general public to fatten their pockets. They would assess a tax, and if the person refused to pay or called it unfair, Herod’s soldiers would threaten him. Regions of a kingdom would be divided up into districts, and a tax collector would become responsible for collecting a certain amount of tax and passing it up the chain to the government. Whatever he collected over the amount required was his to keep. A chief tax collector would employ tax collectors under him to collect taxes in various parts of the district.
As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus is probably was responsible for collecting tolls on goods coming into Judea from Perea, a main trade route. This business has made him rich. But despite his riches, or perhaps because of them, Zacchaeus is hated by the people. They see him as a crook and a traitor, who works as a spy for the Roman oppressors in order to take their money and give it to the occupation government, and on to Rome.
Zacchaeus being described in detail as short, wealthy, and chief tax collector would simply imply that he is not only hated and condemned by the Jews but, more importantly his salvation is seemingly impossible.
In the figure of Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel, we have a portrait of a lost soul wanting, needing, waiting, willing and ready to be saved when the right moment comes.
Zacchaeus’ faith brings salvation not only to himself but also to his house. He expresses his faith in his fervent desire to “see” Jesus, even humbling himself to climb a tree just to watch Him pass by. While those of loftier religious stature react to Jesus with grumbling, Zacchaeus receives Him with joy.
Zacchaeus is not like the other rich men Jesus meets or tells stories about (see Luke 12:16-21; 16:19-31; 18:18-25). He repents, vowing to pay restitution to those he has cheated and to give half of his money to the poor.
By his humility he is exalted, made worthy to welcome the Lord into his house. By his faith, he is justified, made a descendant of Abraham (see Romans 4:16-17).
Zacchaeus knew that all his riches and wealth would never make him happy. He also knew that he needed a Savior, one that could save him from all his sins. One who could
give him true happiness and peace of mind. His desire and change of heart, to make restitution with those he falsely accused and stolen from, and to give half of his goods to the poor, could have only been made possible by the gift of God, to those who believe.
From various Old Testament passages, it is clear that blindness is a type of sin (See Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 59:10; Job 12:25; Zephaniah 1:17; Isaiah 29:8; also Ephesians 5:8; and Matthew 15:14). “In the Near East, eye diseases were as repulsive as leprosy” (14 Frederick Bruner, Matthew Vol. 1, p. 349). Blindness and beggary form an awful combination, and when coupled with the general poverty then prevailing in Palestine, they suggest a fullness of suffering. It is not, therefore, surprising to hear that as Jesus passed by, a blind man called Bartimaeus followed him, crying out, and saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” (Luke 18:39).Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God (Luke 1842-43).
This Gospel narrative is another biblical story about faith making miracle.
Before the healing took effect, however, Christ tested first the faith of the blind man by simply passing him to stretch their faith a little. If he really believed, then would persist in his appeal for help and deliverance. And sure enough, he did. He passed the test, and Jesus healed him.
Here we see Jesus emphasizing the need of faith. Here also we see Jesus testing the faith before he acts on our petition or prayer. The emphasis in the miracle of the centurion’s servant was on the faith of the centurion. The woman with the hemorrhage was healed because of her faith. Jairus was told not to fear, but to have faith.
Biblically speaking, faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about the things we do not see (Heb 11:1). Going back to the Gospel narrative we can somehow say that faith is believing in Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28) and entrusting everything to him who loves and cares for us.
Some of us have spent thousands of pesos so that we can see better physically. We have glasses, sunglasses, reading glasses, bifocals, trifocals, contacts, eye drops, and laser surgery to improve our sight physically. But we have nothing and doing and have done nothing to heal and save us from spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness, then, refers in some instances to the inability of unbelievers to comprehend spiritual truth, specifically failure to recognize the true identity of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
Paul tells the Corinthian believers that blindness aptly describes the spiritual state of pagan unbelievers. He points out that this blindness is inflicted by the “god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). The New Testament reveals that believers are subject to spiritual blindness. Peter deems those who fail increasingly to exhibit diligence in pursuit of spiritual virtue as blind or nearsighted (2 Peter 1:9). And the exalted Lord of the church views the lukewarm but haughty Laodicean church as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Rev 3:17).
It is the Lord who “gives sight to the blind” (Psalm 146:8; Isa 42:16) and we are somehow the two blind men [spiritual blindness] in the story when we are either unable or unwilling to acknowledge God or the things of God in the many events, places, times and people who came to our lives. Perhaps we are not open and dispose to God’s revelation and illumination (Matt 11:25-27; 1 Cor 1:21; 2 Peter 1:19-21) and chose to remain in our stubbornness of heart and unbelief. So, we need to ask him humbly to touch and heal us in order let us see again. It is much more important to see better spiritually. Consequently, cry out to Jesus “all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me!’” (Lk 18:39) Pray to Jesus: “Lord, I want to see” (see Lk 18:41). Beg the Lord: Increase my faith (see Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32).
The Gospel speaks of the coming of the Son of Man, also known as the end times or the end of the world. The scenes of terrible destruction—among them, the darkening of the sun and the moon and the disappearance of the stars from the heavens—evoke great fear.
The scriptures speak of many signs in the heaven and on the earth, but this particular sign is different. That the sun should be darkened, the moon turned to blood, and the stars fall from the heavens is a sign that is repeated over and over in the scriptures (see Ezek. 32:7, Joel 2:31; 3:15, Matt 24:29; Mark 13:24-25, Lu. 21:25, Acts 2:20, Rev. 6:12; 8:12). How many other signs or doctrines are repeated in 14 different places? Certainly, the fulfillment of this scripture will be as dramatic as anything we have ever seen, for when it occurs, “the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man”
Let me share with you some insights of Mr. Russel Ballard that can be of help for your reflection, guidance and consolation:
Living in these difficult times, brothers and sisters, requires each one of us to maintain a positive, hopeful perspective about the future. Today, more so than in the past, I am asked about the signs of the times and if I think the end of the world is near. My answer is the same one that Jesus gave some two thousand years ago:
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (Mark 13:32–33.)
…Although the prophecies tell us that these things are to take place, more and more people are expressing great alarm at what appears to be an acceleration of worldwide calamity. As members of the Church, we must not forget the Savior’s admonition, “Be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass.” These are difficult times, when the forces of nature seem to be unleashing a flood of “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”
Recently I read a newspaper article that cited statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey indicating that earthquakes around the world are increasing in frequency and intensity. According to the article, only two major earthquakes (earthquakes measuring at least six on the Richter scale) occurred during the 1920s. In the 1930s the number increased to five, and then it decreased to four during the 1940s. But in the 1950s, nine major earthquakes occurred, followed by fifteen during the 1960s, forty-six during the 1970s, and fifty-two during the 1980s. Already almost as many major earthquakes have occurred during the 1990s as during the entire decade of the 1980s.
The world is experiencing violent disorders, both physical, as well as social… Political unrest, warfare, and economic chaos prevail in many parts of the world, and the plagues of pornography, drug misuse, immorality, AIDS, and child abuse become more oppressive with each passing day. The media busily satisfies an apparently insatiable appetite of audiences to witness murder, violence, nudity, sex, and profanity…
Brothers and sisters, whether or not these are indeed the last days or even “the beginning of sorrows” as the Savior foretold, some of us may find our lives laden with frustration, disappointment, and sorrow. Many feel helpless to deal with the chaos that seems to prevail in the world. Others anguish over family members who are being carried downstream in a swift, raging current of weakening values and declining moral standards. Children particularly are suffering as society drifts further and further away from the commandments of God.
Many have even resigned themselves to accept the wickedness and cruelty of the world as being irreparable. They have given up hope. They have decided to quit trying to make the world a better place in which they and their families can live. They have surrendered to despair…
My message to you today, my brothers and sisters, is simply this: the Lord is in control. He knows the end from the beginning. He has given us adequate instruction that, if followed, will see us safely through any crisis. His purposes will be fulfilled, and someday we will understand the eternal reasons for all of these events. Therefore, today we must be careful to not overreact, nor should we be caught up in extreme preparations; but what we must do is keep the commandments of God and never lose hope! (“The Joy of Hope Fulfilled,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 31-32)