November 18, 2018
(33rd Sunday Ordinary Time, B)
In those days, I Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: “At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. . . . the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” Dn_12:1-3
Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory,” . . . “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mk_13:24-32
Today the Church celebrates the 2nd Annual, World Day of the Poor. And when it comes to understanding all of this apocalyptic, or ‘end-time’ literature, that we heard today, I’ll have to admit, that I’ll be sitting right out there, with the best of those impoverished; because it all sounds like Greek to me. And the further you try to research any kind of meaning to all of that gibberish, the more confused you get. It’s like looking into a crystal ball of time, but having no point of reference as to where you are, or when.
For example, the Book of Daniel, written in the mid-second century BC, describes the life of the Prophet Daniel who lived in Babylonian exile in the mid-sixth century BC. That’s 400 years between them.
I’m sure we all remember the stories of Daniel in the lion’s den; and of his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (which, by the way, were not their real names); and how they were thrown into a fiery furnace, and survived.
You see, Daniel, like his predecessor, Joseph (of the multi-colored coat fame), were both gifted, by God with the ability to interpret dreams. And because of those gifts, both men received high acclaim and position in the governments of their captivity. Joseph, in Egypt, went on to save his entire family from starvation. And Daniel, in Babylon, saw the “writing on the wall,” and became an apocalyptic visionary.
But, the visions described in Daniel’s Book were not addressed to, nor concerned, the people of the sixth century BC, when Daniel was alive in Babylon. Instead, they were addressed to those Israelites living in the second century BC, back in their homeland of Jerusalem. And it all occurred during a period of atrocious persecution by the ruthless King Antiochus IV, that was described in gory detail, in the Books of Maccabees. It was a time of “unsurpassed distress,” as the writer of Book of Daniel describes today.
You see, those apocalyptic writings really are . . TIMELESS!
Aside from the events of 150 BC, Daniel’s apocalypse could be describing the Roman persecution of the Jews 200 years later. They could be describing the Holocaust, 1900 years after that. Or they might even be describing something that hasn’t even happened yet.
But the bottom line of apocalyptic writing, is that it always leaves, both a message of HOPE and a message of WARNING. And we can say the same thing about the apocalyptic sayings of Jesus. Except, now, we can add, that it will be Jesus who will return to judge our souls, and not an occupying nation. You see, the time and the place of the ‘occupation’ is when WE allow the evil of Satan in our world to occupy our souls, instead of the Holy Spirit, by what we read, what we listen to, what we watch and what we finally end up believing.
And, even though Jesus tells us that there will be persecution and that there will be spectacular celestial events when He returns for His harvest of us; the final outcome of our eternal destiny will still rest, primarily, in our own hands. And that’s why Jesus gives us those constant warnings to be ready!
It’s up to us!
As we come to the closure of another Church year, with the end of Mark’s Gospel and the beginning of Luke’s Year C, just as in our secular, calendar year, it might be a good time for reflection, a good time for resolutions.
And so, we might ask ourselves:
How much time have I devoted to praying for the improvement of our world situation, instead of just complaining about it?
How often do I think about my Lord and God in my work or school day?
How often do I speak with Jesus and the Holy Spirit about my own problems, that They would gladly help me solve?
Am I regularly praying for: Pope Francis, and for our world’s Bishops, and for our Priests, in their own fiery trials of the day?
Am I living those Works of Mercy in my life: remembering, and feeding the poor, clothing the homeless, comforting the afflicted and teaching that everlasting Word of Jesus to my children and my friends?
You see, Jesus wants every one of us to be able to endure the potholes and unpleasant surprises of this life, whatever they may be. He already took the beating for us. He offered the ONE Sacrifice that unites us back with His Father. And He gives us that Promise, that Hope of Eternal Life, with Peace, and Joy, and Light, in communion with all the Saints and in reunion with our loved ones who preceded us.
Now it’s up to US to LIVE His Forgiveness, and to offer OURS, for the Justice, and the Wisdom, and the Salvation of one another.
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