Next Sunday brings us to the end of the Church year as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Then comes our national feast of Thanksgiving followed by our Advent preparation for Christmas. During this month of November we are asked through the liturgy to pray over the “end times” of life, and to remember family members and dear friends who have passed from this world into God’s embrace in heaven.

In all of this, we anchor our belief, our faith, our future in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ. Always before us, however, is the ongoing tension of faith up against the daily upheaval and suffering we witness across the globe. Today’s readings help put this tension into perspective.

Let’s begin with the sun metaphor in the reading from Malachi. Think for a moment just what the sun means for us. Unlike most of the planets, we on earth circle the sun at just the proper distance to receive its light and heat in exactly the right measure so we are nurtured rather than singed. Thus the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures found the sun an apt symbol of its transcendent creator.

Like the sun, God sustains our physical and spiritual lives. But we also know by difficult experience that the power of the sun which warms, nurtures, illuminates, and brings out color can also scorch, sicken, and kill. The difference lies not in solar whimsy but in human choice. The same reality of life can be at once “healing” and “punishing.”

Paul made the same point in Romans as he relates how the apocalyptic “wrath” of God is revealed in the way God simply allows persons to suffer the natural consequences of their disordered choices and actions. God does not burn them; rather they “get burned” in the personal violation of the order of creation.

In today’s gospel Jesus mentions the reality of disaster only to insist that such dire possibilities will never finally come between the Lord and his people. “Some of you will be put to death. All will hate you because of me, but not a hair of your head will be harmed.” May our own faith come alive this week as we discover anew all the ways God uses our time and talent, our faith and freedom as instruments of life and service for our waiting world.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team