33rd. Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Have Courage, Liberation Is Near!”
There is a proverb that goes: no night is so long and dark that it has no dawn. In the life of the Church, of the world, of a nation, of every man and woman, no situation is so dramatic that it does not contain signs of hope.
The first reading and the Gospel invite us to discover these signs of a new world that is born as the kingdom of evil declines.
The second reading, where the comparison of the priesthood of Christ with that of the Old Covenant is continued, can also apply to the same theme. Not even the worst thing that can happen to people, and that is sin, can be the cause of discouragement, because Christ has overpowered it already.
Apocalyptic sections in the Gospel are meant to encourage us rather than frighten us. If we love our neighbour and trust in God, why should we be afraid of his coming?
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
The prophecies of Daniel are apocalyptic, which means “hidden.” Using mysterious images, that only the addressees could understand, the apocalyptic authors announce a message of hope: ‘wickedness, injustice, and persecutions’ – they said – were about to end, and in their place would rise a kingdom of ‘justice and peace’. Yes, the end of the world would come, but it would not bring about the destruction of the earth, of humankind, or of material things. The world, dominated by the wicked, the violent and the unjust, was about to be vanquished in order to make way for the kingdom of God.
God is telling Daniel about the future deliverance of the people from their tribulations. The chapters immediately prior to chapter twelve recount an ongoing battle in heaven between the heavenly princes Michael and Gabriel on the one hand and the demonic powers of earthly kingdoms on the other. Daniel is not the author, but the hero of this book, written during a period of persecution for the Jewish people two centuries before Christ.
The moral of these stories is always that the faithful will persevere even in times of great distress. Death, the most final time of distress, cannot hold the faithful in the dust of the earth. They shall awake to a splendour known only to the heavens. These words of hope were not only written for the Jews, who were living at the time of the wicked king Antiochus; they are valid for all those living today under similar conditions.
Don’t we feel depressed and discouraged as we see evil prevail? Haven’t we sometimes felt that all our efforts and sacrifices might turn out to be useless, because nothing seems to change or about to change in this evil world? Even if there is a change, will it be too late for us, because we will be already dead?
This reading teaches us that no labour is in vain. No tear, no pain, no sacrifice is lost. Our faithfulness will speed up the rise of the new world, and we will share in the joy of the kingdom of God, because the end of the world does not mean the end of all. In the time of distress, this prophecy makes it clear that God’s people will escape destruction, even if their lives are lost in the persecution.
The archangel Michael appears elsewhere in Daniel, Jude and Revelation, always as the protector of God’s people. Today Catholics also look to him as the patron of police officers and others charged with the vocation ‘to protect’.
The Psalm is a prayer of supreme confidence in God, in which a sick person prays to be saved from the grave. It was later understood as a prayer of deliverance from the corruption of death; Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, finds it fulfilled in the Resurrection of Christ (Acts. 2:27).
Hebrews 10:11-14, 18.
Many Christians, perhaps because of what they had learned about righteousness, live in anxiety about their faults and are frightened by the prospect of being punished by God. Since ancient times, people were aware of their sins against God and were anxious to be purified. To get rid of their guilt, people bathed in sacred rivers, practiced purification rites with water, with the blood of animals, or with other substances. The Israelites inherited many of these rites and practices from their ancestors.
In the Temple, priests kept offering sacrifices to God for the sins of the people. Were such rites effective? The reading of today replies: “No!” Purification could not be obtained because the blood of animals has no power to cleanse the hearts of men and women. Only the sacrifice of Christ can obtain this purification. Offered up once and for all, it has freed people from all their sins. Why, then, is sin still so widespread and prevailing?
The author replies that even if the fate of all the enemies of God has already been decreed, they have not yet been placed under the feet of Christ, and they have not yet been made into his footstool.
Fundamentalist groups get very excited by the passages about the time of final tribulation. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks of the coming of the Son of Man in clouds with great power and glory, accompanied by his angels who will gather the chosen from all over the world. These images of the glorious coming of the Son of Man are taken from Dn 7:13-14, the conclusion of Daniel’s dream of four beasts, a lion, a bear, a leopard and an unnamed terrifying beast.
Today’s Gospel reading is part of the apocalyptic testament of Jesus predicting the ‘Destruction of the Temple’, the ‘Beginning of the End’, the ‘Coming Persecution’, the ‘Endurance in Tribulation’, and the ‘Coming of the Son of Man’. It deals with prediction of political unrest, natural disasters and persecutions of the community, all of which culminate in cosmic upheavals that usher in the return of the Son of Man. There is a tension between the destruction of the Temple, soon to be realized and the end of the world. The disciples will experience sufferings similar to those of their Master. The desolation to come is typical of wartime conditions that tend to be a constant feature of human history.
Though Jesus states plainly that no one can know the “day or the hour” of the coming of the Son of Man, they are known only to God. Fundamentalist movements have constantly tried to use the Bible to calculate when the second coming of Jesus will occur. The various dates they fixed have all passed and the world has not ended. This should warn us against fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. It is important to know the style a person uses in their writing and to understand the images they use. Not even all articles in a newspaper are written in the same way. When we read the Bible we must not take everything literally.
Such predictions mostly arise during times of social disturbance – times when people are constantly being bombarded with bad news. Life gets more difficult, and the burdens become overwhelming. Messages about the end of the world have always sprung from pessimism about what is happening in the world, and a desire to see God intervene dramatically to defeat the power of evil. That is the point of view of fundamentalist churches and preachers. They see the present as totally dominated by the power of evil. They believe that, after God has allowed evil to dominate for a certain period, he will, at a certain moment, assert himself, and the end will come.
Some even believe that people who try to put things right by working for peace and justice are actually delaying the Second Coming of Christ. As a result they remain passive in the face of the evil and suffering in the world. In contrast, the Catholic view of the present is much more positive, because even though there is evil all around, we believe that God has not abandoned the present world to the forces of evil. God entered the world decisively with the coming of the Messiah, and God is present in human experience. We believe that we cooperate with God’s plan when we work for justice and peace, and that the end of the world will be the completion of what God has begun.
We live in the shadow of eternity. We are like workers who do not know when the Master will come. We must live life in such a way that it does not matter when he comes. Day by day, our work must be completed. We are called to live a life that will be pleasing to him. We must be ready, at any moment, to meet him face to face.
How have we used God’s gift of life to build up or to break down? Have we tried to bring justice to our world, or have we simply taken care of ourselves or have we remained passive and indifferent to the plights of others?
The teaching of the end time is a reminder to us that each moment of life is God’s precious gift, and we must use it for good while there is still time. All of our life should be a preparation to meet the ‘King’ by being a witness to his love, peace and justice to all.
Apocalyptic sections of the Gospel are meant to encourage us rather than frighten us. If you love and trust in God, why should you be afraid of his coming?
Our hopes should shape our lives as powerfully as our faith and our love. If we hope for a future of justice and peace, we must read the signs of the times, so that this future may begin now.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Do we sometimes become depressed and discouraged when we see corruption and evil prevail? Do we pass on our feelings of negativity, disaster and doom to others or do we encourage faith and trust in God’s plan?
Mon. … Today’s first reading reminds us that the faithful through their trust in God will always persevere, even in times of great trials. Even in ‘death’, the most final moment of distress cannot hold the ‘faithful’ in the dust of the earth. Our faithfulness to God will speed up the rising of the ‘new world’ in which we will all share in the joy of the ‘Kingdom of God’.
Tues. … The teachings of the Church and our trust in the Scriptures and the Gospel tell us that the ‘end of the world’ does not mean the end of all. The prophesy in Daniel makes it clear that the faithful will escape ‘destruction’ even if their lives are lost in the persecution.
Wed. … Through the perfect sacrifice, his blood shed for ‘all’ on the Cross, we have been given the gift of redemption. God does not need holocausts and the sacrifices of the blood of animals in atonement for our sins. God needs us to carry out his will and not the will of the adversaries who reject Christ’s sacrifice.
Thur. … Jesus’ apocalyptic testament in today’s Gospel reading warns his disciples of the coming political unrest and persecutions in the community. Jesus tells his disciples that they will experience sufferings similar to those of their Master. They, too, will have to carry their ‘crosses’ if they want to follow in his ‘Way’. Are we prepared to suffer for righteousness and the truth? Can we be like Jesus and forgive our enemies and all those who persecute us? Our Church teaches us that there can be no Christianity without the Cross!
Frid. … We all live in hope and trust in the shadow of eternity. We need to live in such a way that it does not matter when the ‘Son of Man’ comes, because we will be ready. Day by day, our work for the Lord must be completed. What tasks and issues do you still have outstanding with others and with the Lord that needs to be made right?
Sat. … How have we used God’s gift of life? How have we used the ‘talents’ he has entrusted to us? Have we tried our best to bring love, peace and justice to our communities? Each precious moment of life must be used for the ‘good’ while there is still time.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, we give You thanks for the continuance of Christ’s redemptive work in the world and our faith and trust that each Mass brings us closer to the final Mass when that work of sanctification will be complete. Through Your graces help us to live by his Gospel in the ‘Way of the Truth’ and expand our hearts with love to all in the joy of His promise, “Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will not pass away”.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.