In the middle of a busy city, there was a young man who was shouting at the crowd, saying, “Everyone, look! I have the most beautiful heart in the world! It is perfect and flawless!”
The crowd was stunned seeing an indeed perfect heart. It was beautifully shaped and had not a tiny flaw in appearance. Many were awed and mesmerized.
However, an old man came up to the young man saying, “Son, I have the most beautiful heart in the world.”
The young man challenged him to show his heart.
When the old man showed his heart, the young man and the crowd were taken aback to see the old man’s heart. It was very craggy and jagged. It had patches and scars all over. It didn’t look like a heart because it seemed like bits and pieces were just put together to form the shape of a heart. It was multicolored. The edges were rough. Some parts of the heart had holes and were only obviously filled with other pieces.
“Are you mad? How dare you compare my heart to yours which looks so odd and ugly! Can’t you see, my heart doesn’t have any scar and yours is nothing but scars! How can you even say that your heart is beautiful?” Laughed the young man.
The old man replied, “Son, my heart is as beautiful as yours. These scars that you see represent the love that I gave out without conditions. I share a piece of my heart with others when I love, and in return, I get a piece of their heart. I place the piece of heart that I get in return to the spot where my heart was torn.”
The young man and the crowd were shocked to hear the old man. The old man continued, “My heart is jagged, rough, and full of uneven bits and pieces because the pieces of heart that I shared were neither equal nor in the same shape and size. My heart is not as perfectly shaped as your young heart because I never get the love in return from those I gave it to. My heart is like this because I keep sharing it, I keep loving even if it hurts.”
The young man, somewhat ashamed of the shape of his heart, went up to the old man and said, “Sir, take a piece of my heart to fill the torn part of yours.” ***
This short story and our gospel today (Luke 21:5-19) are good examples of what Jesus warns us about— not to be deceived by external embellishments and appearance. In the gospel, Jesus forewarned the disciples to beware of false teachers and prophets who would declare that they were the Messiah. These false prophets were said to be clothed in clean garments and project the most astonishing appearance that would lead one to believe in all they say. But in reality, they have hidden secrets, selfish motives, ill intentions towards others. Just like Herod’s temple which looked extremely beautiful from the outside, but full of hypocrisy, spiritual blindness, oppression and rejection of Christ and the Gospel on the inside.
Jesus’ warning was not only directed to the disciples during their time, but to us as well. This picture of ‘beautiful on the outside, ugly on the inside’ is not new to us – it never gets old either – as we continue to see it in our everyday lives. However, we are reminded of this reality even today as we can fall into the trap of deceit that it continues to project and instill. What the Lord asks of us today is to remain steadfast in faith in Him, and for us to keep doing what we are taught to do as true disciples of Christ. However, Jesus tells us that, “men will seize [you]; they will hand [you] over… to imprisonment, and bring [you] before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be [your] opportunity to bear witness” [Luke 21:12]. As Christ’s disciples, we are exhorted to take courage and not fear in spite of the earthly consequences of remaining in Him for He shall take charge of our defense. “You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives” [Luke 21:19].
In the first reading, the Lord speaks openly about the inevitable— on judgment day no one is spared from either condemnation or salvation of the Lord. However, he promises that, “for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” [Malachi 4:1-2].
In late 1976, Pat Robertson, an American evangelist, predicted that the end of the world would come in 1982. We are now in 2016, and the world is still rotating on its orbit and revolving around the sun uninterruptedly. Further, one of the numerous scientific predictions through James Kasting, an American Harvard graduate geoscientist, claims that 500 million years from now, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will drop dramatically, making the earth uninhabitable. Without a doubt, we would all be dead by then, and truly, only the Omniscient, the Alpha and Omega could tell if this happened 500 million years after.
The Day of the Lord or the Second Coming of the Lord is cast in stone, so to speak. Contemporary prophets, astrologers, or psychics call it different names such as ‘apocalyptic events’ or end of the world. It will happen (or may have already begun to happen) but nobody knows when. The uncertain is truly terrifying and frightening. Perhaps, no amount of preparation will ever spare us from this inevitable. Our faith tells us that we will either be condemned or saved. What must we do then?
St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians strictly warns the believers of Christ’s return to cease living in idleness for this may have led them to tone down on evangelization to avoid further persecution, or they may have simply chosen to wait around for the Lord to come and deliver them. This warning also goes out to all of us, Christian disciples. To all of us who believe in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. We are exhorted to keep on working for the Lord, day and night.
Moreover, in the words of the True and Only Messiah, Jesus Christ, we should not be frightened because even before these ‘apocalyptic events’ happen, we, as Christians, will be judged first. Unsuitably judged by men, and righteously by the Lord. What we are reminded to focus on is not on the prophecies or frightening events but rather, to focus on remaining in Jesus, in spite of what the world feeds our minds. It is quite an assurance that the Lord will not only take our side when we bear witness to His Holy name, but will also fight our battle against those who persecute us.
We need no signs to be ready for the events that may happen. We do not need to wait for the predictions of the next most accurate psychic to forewarn us of signs. As true Christians, our only sign is Jesus. He is our sign of hope, redemption and resurrection. And the great news is, this Sign is alive in the Eucharist that we can freely receive only if we go to Him.
As we’ve heard, our external appearance will not matter in the eyes of the Lord. Our good looks will never save us for when the end of time comes. What Jesus tells us is to work on what is internal and eternal. Live the gospel and bear witness to the love of God.
May we get busy in working on our internal beauty to reflect the image of Jesus before the end of time comes.
Dear Jesus, I give you all the glory! Thank you for saving me when I tend to go astray and believe in what the world says. Forgive me for the times I focused too much on what’s external and temporary. Please let me focus only you, my greatest sign of hope and resurrection. Amen.