Fr. Yeprem Kelegian sends out a brief, inspirational message every few days, and I’m grateful to be on his mailing list. Each message is just a few lines, suitable for prayerful reflection.
His e-mail for the Tuesday of Holy Week stuck a special chord with me. It arrived under the headline, “Holy Tuesday: Jesus’ Last Day of Preaching on This Earth.” Here’s Der Yeprem’s message in its entirety:
Today is Jesus Christ’s last day of preaching on this Earth. And the message is simple: I don’t know when the end will be. So I must do works which are pleasing to Him. And pray that, one day, I will hear his voice; and he will recognize me to be among the righteous.
For the “simple” message, Der Yeprem refers us to the reading for Holy Tuesday (Matthew 24:1-26:2): a long passage, which includes the Parable of the Ten Virgins. But it’s so much more, incorporating Jesus’ incredible description of the end of the world. Read it for yourself and see what I mean.
It’s astonishing that these chapters in Matthew constitute Jesus’ “farewell sermon.” Jesus was a great storyteller, and he deploys all his powers in this passage. It’s palpable merely in the black and white of a printed page; but try to envision his gestures as he spoke, the look in his eyes, the inflections in his voice.
Can you imagine how terrified his listeners must have been, to hear Jesus talking like this—using all his gifts of imagination and drama to paint a vivid picture of the world’s twilight, from the “macro” level of chaotic, warring kingdoms down to the personal level of field-workers disappearing in the night?
And can any of us read it today—especially today, with all that’s going on in the world—without a sense of trembling in our own hearts?
Nevertheless, all of this complexity can be distilled down to the essential point that Jesus is making to his followers. Fr. Yeprem characterized it as a “simple” message, and at first I was inclined to disagree. But on reflection, he’s correct about its simplicity. In fact, the whole passage might be seen as a kind of Rorschach Test of Christian trust.
To the person who truly trusts Jesus, the simple message—“I don’t know when the end will be, so I must do works pleasing to Jesus, and pray, and hope”—must stand out like neon against the dark background of Matthew 24-25.
If, however, you read the passage and feel despondent and weighted down by Jesus’ terrible vision of the end—then perhaps you’ve got some work to do.
For myself, I think I’m in the latter category. But this little exercise was a ray of neon today, for which I’m indebted to Fr. Yeprem Kelegian.
(By the way, to get on his mailing list, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.)