Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18, 2012
Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:14-18; Mark 13:24-32

            A good apocalyptic story is hard to pass up. Hollywood produces many captivating films about the end times where the righteous few are saved and the masses of nameless people are destroyed in calamitous events. Prophecies, like Nostradamus and the Mayan Indians, are still popular. According to a sect in California, the world was to end a year ago. Another group claims gloom and doom for the world next month. They point to disastrous natural events as proof of their claims. The church gives us these readings as we prepare for the end of the liturgical year next week with the feast of Christ the King. It is after tumultuous times that Christ will come and gather the elect to himself to give salvation.

            Our own scripture gives us rich apocalyptic scenes to ponder. The presence of the archangel Michael tells us that something beyond earthly events are happening in Daniel. The author leads up to today’s chapter by telling us of the great Hellenistic wars while an angel offers Daniel a brief historical account of the Persian Empire and of Alexander the Great. He follows it with a very long account of the Seleucid dynasty leading up to Antiochus Epiphanes. We get the magnificent poetic conclusion of the revelation in which the elect of God, many of whom may undergo terrible suffering and whose names are “found written in the book” of life, will be saved. Many, not all, of the dead shall come back to life. For those in Daniel’s time, this statement is remarkable because it is the earliest clear statement of the belief in the resurrection of the dead.

            Mark’s Gospel is probably written before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. In fact, Mark is reputed to have written it during the 60’s in Rome when the Christian community lived under the reality of persecution and looked upon the upcoming revolt in Palestine as a source of potential trouble for the Jewish Christians in Rome. For later Christians, the fall of the Temple is seen to be the beginning of the Apocalypse, however Mark is concerned about the pagan signs of abomination he is seeing in Rome because the land was under great distress and tribulation. Messianic pretenders and false prophets were rising, but God had already established a time schedule for the coming of the kingdom.

            Mark places the coming of Jesus as the Son of Man as they key event of the Day of the Lord. His glorious arrival at the eschaton, the last days, is the final proof of God’s victory; therefore everyone is urged to practice patient endurance as these events unfold. They have been forewarned about their sequence. Now they just have to wait. Cosmic signs, like a darkened sun and moon, falling stars, and a shaken power in heaven, is a way of saying that all creation signals his coming. You better watch out! The Son of Man is not the angelic figure in human form that we hear about in Daniel. The Son of Man is Jesus himself. He is the fulfillment of the term, “the Son of Man,” and he is coming to gather all the elect people to himself to present them to God, his Father.

            These words are meant to console us who believe. We are given the grace and knowledge to understand the cosmic events – to be able to read the signs of the times. We know the authority of Jesus whose words endure while the rest of the world passes away. We live on as the redeemed because we have patiently waited in faith. We are given these uplifting words, “when you see these things happening know that he is near.”

            Take some time this week to get acquainted with Jesus on a more familiar, personal level. Put the rosaries aside if they don’t lead you to a closer friendship with him. As the seasons change and we ready for winter, it is good for us to pause and reflect on the way we choose to live. It is also good for us to remember all those who have gone before us in faith. Take time to settle yourselves down and enter not only into the silence, but also into the stillness of that silence.

Pay special attention to your five senses so they are heightened. Look at the world in the way an artist, musician, or poet does. See what isn’t there; feel textures and temperatures, follow the memory inherent in aromas, taste the richness of surroundings, and listen to the silences that punctuate the sounds. The senses provide our imagination with needed data to make meaning of our experiences. Our senses are the place where we encounter Christ and we don’t give them enough significance. These senses discern the signs of the times. Let these sensual stimuli wash over you enjoyably so you unmistakably know that the Lord is near. Experience his nearness by letting your senses encounter him as lovers shares with each other. Let him feel and experience what you feel and sit and wait in silent stillness. Your patient waiting will be rewarded as he promised. You are already the redeemed ones, the elect. We simply have to wait with him and share ourselves as warmly as we can. He will come. He certainly will come to be with you.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The church turns to the Book of Revelation to prepare us for the end times. An angel is sent to John to give witness to the word of God by reporting what he saw. He speaks to the churches in Asia and in Ephesus by commending them for their perseverance during trials, but also pointing out that they have lost the love they first had. He speaks to the church in Sardis and encourages them to be watchful and to strengthen what is left of their faith. To the church in Laodicea he tells them they are lukewarm and they can be invigorated once again. John then tells them of his vision of a heavenly throne room surrounded by the creatures that are signs of the Four Gospels. They serve to give glory and honor to the Holy Lord. When the one who sits on the throne presents a scroll, a slain Lamb takes it while all the powers of heaven sing a hymn of praise. John is to take the scroll and swallow it. It has a pleasing taste but makes the stomach sour. John is told to prophesy to many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. Two witnesses, the olive trees and the lampstands, stand before the Lord of the earth. They are prepared to devour the Lamb’s enemies. The beast that comes from the abyss will rise up and slaughter those who heard the prophecy. Their corpses will lie on the earth for 3.5 days while people gloat over their victory, but a breath of life will come from God and they will be raised to new life and they will be taken up into heaven.

Gospel: In Jericho, a blind beggar calls out to Jesus who is passing by. When the man asks for his sight, which is equated with belief, Jesus heals him. The man follows Jesus to Jerusalem, but Jesus meets Zacchaeus along the way. Zacchaeus is a tax collector who defrauded many Jews, but through his conversion he promises to more than repay what he has immorally taken from people. Salvation has come to his house. As they near Jerusalem, Jesus tells a parable of a nobleman who went off to a distant country to obtain kingship for himself. He entrusted his land to ten servants, some of whom invested wisely, but to the one who hid the coin and did not invest, it was taken away from him. To the ones who can be trusted, more will be given. Once Jesus sees Jerusalem, he weeps over it for they do not know what makes for peace because it is hidden from their eyes. Along the way, he meets ten lepers whom he cures, but only one returns to express his gratitude. He was a Samaritan, a foreigner. His faith saves him. When Jesus enters the Temple area he erupts in anger for merchants made the house of prayer a marketplace. Sadducees, who deny the resurrection, test Jesus with a question about to whom does a woman belong after all seven brothers die. He answers that they are all alive to God, who is the God of the living.   

Saints of the Week

November 18: The Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul celebrates churches in honor of the two great church founders. St. Peter's basilica was begun in 323 by Emperor Constantine - directly over Peter's tomb. A new basilica was begun in 1506 and it was completed in 1626. Many great artists and architects had a hand in building it. St. Paul Outside the Walls was built in the 4th century over Paul's tomb. It was destroyed by fire in 1823 and subsequently rebuilt.

November 18: Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852) joined the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and at age 49, traveled to Missouri to set up a missionary center and the first free school west of the Mississippi. She then founded six more missions. She worked to better the lives of the Native Americans.

November 21: The Presentation of Mary originated as a feast in 543 when the basilica of St. Mary's the New in Jerusalem was dedicated. The day commemorate the event when Mary's parent brought her to the Temple to dedicate her to God. The Roman church began to celebrate this feast in 1585.

November 22: Cecilia, martyr (2nd or 3rd century), is the patron saint of music because of the song she sang at her wedding. She died just days after her husband, Valerian, and his brother were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the gods. She is listed in the First Eucharistic prayer as an early church martyr.

November 23: Clement I, pope and martyr (d. 99) is also mentioned in the First Eucharistic prayer. He is the third pope and was martyred in exile. He is presumed to be a former slave in the imperial court. He wrote a letter to the Corinthians after a revolt and as pope he restored ordered within the ministries.   

November 23: Columban, abbot (d. 615) was an Irish monk who left Ireland for France with 12 companions to found a monastery as a base for preaching. They established 3 monasteries within 10 years. Columban opposed the king's polygamy and was expelled. He set up monasteries in Switzerland and Italy before he died. Though he was expelled, the monasteries were permitted to remain open.

November 23: Miguel Pro, S.J., martyr (1891-1927) lived in Guadalupe, Mexico before entering the Jesuits. Public worship was forbidden in Mexico so Miguel became an undercover priest often wearing disguises. He was arrested and ordered to be shot in front of a firing squad without benefit of a trial. Before he died she shouted out, "Long live Christ the King."

November 24: Andrew Dung-Lac and companion martyrs (1785-1839) were missionaries to Vietnam during the 17th through 19th centuries. Over 130,000 Christians were killed, including priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people. Many of these were Vietnamese citizens.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Nov 18, 1538. Pope Paul III caused the governor of Rome to publish the verdict proclaiming the complete innocence of Ignatius and his companions of all heresy.
·      Nov 19, 1526. Ignatius was examined by the Inquisition in Alcala, Spain. They were concerned with the novelty of his way of life and his teaching.
·      Nov 20, 1864. In St Peter's, Rome, the beatification of Peter Canisius by Pope Pius IX.
·      Nov 21, 1759. At Livorno, the harbor officials refused to let the ship, S Bonaventura, with 120 exiled Portuguese Jesuits on board, cast anchor. Carvalho sent orders to the Governor of Rio de Janeiro to make a diligent search for the supposed wealth of the Jesuits.
·      Nov 22, 1633. The first band of missionaries consisting of five priests and one brother, embarked from England for Maryland. They were sent at the request of Lord Baltimore. The best known among them was Fr. Andrew White.
·      Nov 22, 1791: Georgetown Academy opened with one student, aged 12, who was the first student taught by the Jesuits in the United States.
·      Nov 23, 1545: Jeronimo de Nadal, whom Ignatius had known as a student at Paris, entered the Society. Later Nadal was instrumental in getting Ignatius to narrate his autobiography.
·      In 1927: the execution of Fr. Michael Augustine Pro, SJ, by leaders of the persecution of the Church in Mexico.
·      Nov 24, 1963: The death of John LaFarge, pioneer advocate of racial justice in the United States.