FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time ( B )
Daniel 12:1-3 | Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11 | Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 | Mark 13:24-32
Our readings for this Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time have the flavor of “end times.” Indeed, we draw very near the end of our year-long liturgical journey of faith. Next week, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe with its own proper readings. As we approach the end of the Church's year, she calls upon us to meditate on the great themes of the end time and about the return of Christ in glory.
During China’s Boxer Rebellion of 1900, insurgents captured a mission station, blocked all the gates but one, and in front of that one gate placed a cross flat on the ground. Then the word was passed to those inside that any who trampled the cross underfoot would be permitted their freedom and life, but that any refusing would be shot. Terribly frightened, the first seven students trampled the cross under their feet and were allowed to go free. But the eighth student, Yǒnggǎn, refused to commit the sacrilegious act. Kneeling beside the cross in prayer for strength, she arose and moved carefully around the cross, and went out to face the firing squad. Strengthened by her example, every one of the remaining ninety-two students followed her to the firing squad.
In today’s first reading, the author tries to communicate a message of hope to a community assailed by devastation perpetrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Seleucid king of Hellenistic Syria. For the first time, we hear a clear message in the Scriptures about the rising of the dead back to life. That, indeed, is a consoling piece of revelation in times when God’s faithful people were being slaughtered wantonly by their pagan oppressors. They are promised that the Archangel Michael, the celestial protector of the Jewish nation, will be there to decisively put an end to all evil, and to execute God’s judgment, in which the righteous and the wicked are separated. Those who remained faithful to God and his Law despite tremendous pressures to renounce God will shine like the stars and pass to eternal life. The rest who refused to be God’s servants on earth, will not share this privilege in the next life and will be committed to "everlasting horror and disgrace”. Then the Son of man comes from heaven to earth on the clouds with power and great glory, and sends out his angels, who accompany him to gather the elect and escort them to heaven. At first glance, this passage from Daniel is foreboding, ominous, and even a little depressing. One has to search really hard to find the hope, but it is there. Thanks to the Resurrection, one can always find hope! You and I are promised that by clinging to the Lord and in remaining faithful, we shall not be destroyed.
Jesus and Satan had an argument as to who is better on his computer. This goes on for a few hours until God was tired of hearing all of the bickering. Finally God said, "Cool it. I am going to set up a test that will run two hours and I will judge who does the better job." They set themselves before their computers and begin. They moused. They did spreadsheets. They wrote reports. They sent e-mail. They downloaded. They did some reports. They made cards. They did every known job. Seconds before the end of the competition, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, the rain poured and, of course, the electricity went off. Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed. Moments later, the power is restored, and God announces that the contest is over. He asks Satan to show what he has come up with. Satan is visibly upset, and cries, "I have nothing! I lost it all when the power went out." "Very well, then," says God, "let us see if Jesus fared any better." Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours. Satan observed this and became irate. "But how?! I lost everything yet Jesus’ files is intact! How did he do it?" God chuckles, "Jesus saves."
The priest’s primary role is to offer sacrifice. In the second reading, the author of Hebrews draws contrast between the sacrifices offered by imperfect and mortal priests of the Jewish religion and the definitive sacrifice of Christ, the eternal high priest. Every Jew who committed sin had to bring a bull, goat or lamb to the Temple, and have a priest offer it as a sin sacrifice in order to be forgiven and reconciled to God. These sin offerings had to be made over and over because they could not genuinely effectively remove or heal human sinfulness but could only remind the people of their sins by the endless sacrifices offered. In contrast, the sacrifice of Jesus was an ultimate and profound sacrifice that won for us the forgiveness of sin, rendering further sacrifice unnecessary. Through Jesus’ saving gift of himself, perfect praise has been offered to God, sin and guilt, have been expiated, and absolute, intimate union has been achieved. Jesus continues his priestly work in Heaven by his intercession for us in the presence of God, the Father.
Fr Romerico and Ptr Joselito are standing by the side of the road holding up a sign that reads, "The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it's too late!" They planned to hold up the sign to each passing car. "Leave us alone you religious fanatics!" yelled the first driver as he sped by. From around the curve they heard screeching tires and a big splash. "Do you think," said one clergy to the other, "we should just put up a sign that says 'Bridge Out' instead?"
There is often a lot of talk and frenzy about the end of the world coming. It especially happens with certain natural phenomenon such as comets, eclipses, and meteor showers. A great number of people desperately want to know the date of the end of the world. In our Gospel, Jesus is speaking prophetically about His Second Coming. He will one day “come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” as we profess in the Creed. It's important to understand that Jesus insisted we can not know the day or the hour, that we can not predict when this will happen. Although we do not know when, it is a fact that He will one day return. Our business is not to speculate about the Last days. Look! Here it is or there it is. Our business is not to know when the end is coming, but to live today as if the end will be right now. We must always remember that (1) we have a God to serve, (2) a soul to save, (3) a neighbor to love, (4) sin to avoid, (5) hell to escape and (6) heaven to attain. The end of the world could be today, or tomorrow, or next year, or 1,000 years from now for all we know. The question is, will you be ready? <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum