17 November 201933 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
33 Ordinary Time
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 21:5-19

I was pulling out from the curb. Then I noticed a police ticket on my windshield. I pulled over. Happily it was not a ticket but a pamphlet. It invited me to consider where I wanted to spend eternity. Inside the pamphlet was a laboriously written note with many misspellings. It warned me about the imminent arrival of the Second Coming.

I have smiled patronizingly at people who hand out such end- of-the-world pamphlets and messages. I fear my attitude matched that of Mark Twain's. When told the world was coming to an end, he snapped, "Good. We can do without it."

However, my patronizing days are done. The late Scripture scholar Raymond Brown advises that end-of-the-world people perform a valuable service for us. They keep the Second Coming before our eyes.

People such as these forcefully remind us of our own belief. After all, in each Sunday's Liturgy we recite in the Nicene Creed, "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." After the Consecration, we say, "Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again." Finally in the Pater Noster we pray for the Second Coming in the prayer Jesus Himself taught us. We even beg, "Thy kingdom come." Rightly so! Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tells us "we must renew in ourselves the desire for the great coming."

We share faith in the Parousia with a good number of our fellow citizens. A US News and World Report tells of a poll it conducted. Almost sixty percent of Americans believe the world is slated to come to an abrupt ending. About fifty percent are convinced there will be an anti-Christ. Twenty percent believe the Second Coming and anti-Christ will appear in a few years.

We would be unwise to get into the predicting business. Many religious groups in our lifetime have grandly prophesied both the day, hour, and minute. For their efforts they have come up with scrambled eggs spread most ignobly across their respective faces. We had best take the advice of Jesus we know not the day nor the hour. Indeed the prophet advises, "Plan then as if Christ's return were years away, but live as though it were today.

The Fifth Lateran Council of the early sixteenth century expressly forbade anyone of us looking into a crystal ball. It denied us the questionable luxury of predicting either the time of the Second Coming or the arrival of the anti-Christ. It was a sound prohibition then. It remains so today no matter what the temptation may be to the contrary. Vincent McCorry put it this way, "What matters is not the timing but the fact."

In the meantime, we Christians have much to do. Unlike the people who St Paul sternly admonishes in his second letter to the Thessalonians (3:7-12), we cannot idle our time away. Nor can we afford the luxury, as Paul says, of minding everybody's business but our own.

We must attempt to become more exciting Catholics. One way of doing that is by making the world about us a more attractive place to live in. Charles Dickens has said that no one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it for someone else. But Dickens would endorse the line that true love is an action, not just a feeling.

It is estimated that thirty three million Americans are poor. And perhaps as many as another thirty million are on the ropes financially. Many of these are children.

That so many of our fellow citizens, some of them infants, go to bed hungry each night is a scandal we Catholics cannot ignore. We must demand systemic changes in our structures. But more importantly we must work for them.

To be a Catholic today requires that we be a counter-cultural people. What a force for good we could be! We make up an astounding 23% of the US population.

Perhaps you may find your mandate in this summation written by some clever author. "It is up to you to illumine the area about you. You do not have to groan over everything your community lacks. You are there to bring it what it needs. Where hatred, malice, and discord reign, you will put love, pardon, and peace. For lying you will bring truth. For despair, hope. For doubt, faith. There where there is sadness, you will give joy."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
33 Ordinary Time
Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Running with the Lord

I was in Publix this week, and I noticed that they were selling Christmas stuff, cookies, ornaments, etc. Then I got back to the office to learn that our parish Christmas cards have just come in. Discouraging isn't it?

Two weeks from now the season of Advent will begin. That's when the most important preparation begins. That is the preparation for celebrating the spiritual becoming physical. Since Advent is about the two comings of Christ, in Bethlehem and at the end of time, the readings this week and next week, the Solemnity of Christ the King, eases us into Advent by speaking about the Second Coming and the end of the world.

We begin with the prophecy of last Book of the Hebrew scriptures, Malachi. The prophet who called himself Malachi or God's messenger, wrote about 450 years before Christ. He concealed his identity because he leveled some sharp reproaches against the Temple priests and leaders of the people. The people had fallen into religious indifference. They had compromised their faith and taken on immoral lifestyles. Still, their lives flourished. They were very much like many modern day Americans. So many people, so many times we, fall into religious indifference. It is not that we reject God, we just tend to ignore Him. Perhaps we have too much, too much to distract us from remembering much we need God. To all who are tempted to just go along with the immoral lifestyle that surrounds us and smothers us Malachi says:

"See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall."

In today’s Gospel, from Luke, Jesus speaks directly about the end of time. He uses apocalyptical language, the language of the Book of Revelation. This is a language that is somewhere between prose and poetry. It is meant to stir up emotions, to get people involved. Jesus looks at the Temple. The Gospel of Luke began in the Temple with the story of the annunciation of the Birth of John the Baptist to John's father, Zachary, a Temple priest, as he offered incense in the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the Temple. The Temple was the place that Simeon and Anna rejoiced at the Birth of Jesus and prophesied about his life and death. Jesus was found in the Temple as an adolescent. In the Gospel of Luke the Temple is the sight for Jesus' final teachings, of which today's gospel is a central part.

The Temple was the joy of the People of Israel. Its stones were inlaid with jewels. The disciples marveled at it. Jesus wept. He said it would be torn down, as it was in the year 70 AD. There is a section of the Temple still standing. It’s called the Wailing Wall. People still go there and mourn the fate of the Jewish people, and the fate of all who are persecuted. (By the way, the Wailing Wall is actually not a wall, but a support structure, part of the foundation.)

Jesus told the disciples that the Temple would be torn down because all material things come to an end sooner or later. Then the disciples asked the big question, the question that so many people want to know: When? Every year self- proclaimed prophets come out of the woodwork telling people that they have an answer to this question. Every year newspapers carry advertisement from materialistic self- proclaimed prophets with supposed reasons why the world is coming to an end in a few days, months or years. Of course, to help them get the word out they leave an address where donations to support this "ministry" can be sent.

When? Everyone wants to know when. No one wants to hear what Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew 24:36: "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

“So,” Jesus says in today's Gospel, “Don't fall for anyone telling you when the end of the world is coming: whether it is a priest or a preacher, a self-proclaimed prophet or a spiritual writer, don't fall for it.” There are many people out there who try to take advantage of you. They will stir you up to paying big bucks to help ensure your salvation. The only thing you will be ensuring is that they meet next month's payment on their Bentleys. As soon as you hear the words, "The time is now!" remember Jesus' words in today's Gospel, 'Don't follow them." As soon as you hear someone say that his or her followers will be saved from the final destruction of the world, avoid them like the plague. Jesus says, "For many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them. They will mislead you."

Jesus absolutely refuses to say when the end of time will come. All he will tell us is that there are signs of the end. Wars and insurrections are typical and bound to happen, but the end will not follow these immediately. Jesus says "there will be earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven." Does he mean the nuclear bomb? Perhaps, perhaps not. Jesus' point is that his true followers should not be concerned about when the end is, they should only be concerned that they are ready for the end so they can take it in stride.

And that is what is at the heart of the apocalyptical predictions of the end of time. We need to have a lifestyle that is a continual stride to the Lord. I used to run long distance races, and I used to coach high school cross country and distance runners. Any distance runner or coach will tell you, you don't reach your goal of a fast time or winning an award with a sudden burst of speed at the beginning of the race and a huge sprint at the end, but only running evenly through most of the race. You need a constant strong stride. It is the same regarding our lives. We achieve our goal with the constant steady pace towards God. It is pace, the Christian lifestyle that puts us in the position to win the spiritual award.

Yes, the world will come to an end, but we have no cause for panic. Only those who ignore the Lord, the people Malachi spoke to in his day and in our day, people of religious indifference and immoral lifestyles, need to panic. The rest of us should just ask ourselves: Is my pace good? Am I striding towards my God? Do I need to pick up the pace a little bit particularly through confession and a renewed prayer life. Am I ready for the end?

We conclude the Our Father with “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” What we are asking is for God to run with us and keep us from being so overwhelmed by the sin around us that we give in. And so we pray that He deliver us from evil.

Today we pray for the courage to put God first in our lives and to make him the goal of our existence. May we always run with the Lord.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
33 Ordinary Time
This World is Dissolving

Bottom line: This world is dissolving but a new world awaits us. "By your perseverance," Jesus says, "you will secure your lives."

Since June (you might remember) we've been on a road trip to Jerusalem. Well, we've arrived. The disciple stand in awe before the temple. Jesus, however, shocks them:

"All that you see here-- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down"

In four decades - 70 A.D. to be exact - the Romans suppressed the Jewish Revolt and in the process tore down the Temple.

For the Jewish people the Temple was more than a place of worship. It provided a focus for their nation and it represented the universe itself. The Holy of Holies signifies heaven. The veil in front of that inner sanctuary had four colors that correspond to the four elements - earth, air, water and fire. The seven branches of the lampstand evoke the seven ancient "planets" and the twelve loaves the months of the year. To destroy the temple was like bringing down the cosmos itself.

Like the people who listened to Jesus, we live in the end times. When I was child in the fifties, we knew that the U.S. or Russia could unleash nuclear weapons at any moment. That fear has receded. Today we more worry about ecological disasters like Jesus describes:

"There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. "

Whatever catastrophe await us, Jesus says that before those things happen, persecutions will come. They don't get much news coverage, but Christians do face persecution in many nations. In our own country we see a growing hatred for followers of Christ.

How do we respond to all this? St. Paul gives sensible advice: "Work quietly". He reminds the Thessalonians that when he was with them he worked day and night "in toil and drudgery".

Quiet work can involve taking small steps to improve the environment - as Pope Francis has encouraged. It also includes prayers for those who govern our world. Above all, do not fall into discouragement. That seems to be the biggest temptation today, just to give up. That would be a fatal mistake. Jesus tells us we have the help of the Holy Spirit in our trials. This world is dissolving but a new world is emerging through God's power. With all this happening, Jesus tells to no be afraid, but rather keep on keeping on:

"You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
33 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
33 Ordinary Time
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

I think it is important to place today's extract from St Luke's Gospel in context. Jesus has by this point arrived in Jerusalem. He entered the Holy City on a donkey and was acclaimed by his followers as the Messiah. He then spends the next few days teaching in the Temple and we are told that he spent his nights on the Mount of Olives. His teaching has become more apocalyptic and he predicts the destruction of the Temple and weeps over Jerusalem. It is in this context that he gives this warning to his disciples to be on their guard and prepare themselves for persecution.

Immediately after spending these few days in the Temple he tells his disciples to prepare the Upper Room and then he goes there to celebrate the Last Supper with them and then the events of his arrest, trial and death on the Cross take place. These last days that Jesus spends in Jerusalem were filled with significance for Jesus. He knows that this is the last opportunity he is going to get to prepare his disciples to face what is to come. He wants to prepare them for the experiences that await them and he wants to warn them what to expect as they undertake the task of building up the Church.

Jesus knows that the disciples will meet with severe persecutions and that many of his followers will face martyrdom. He wants to strengthen them to face these attacks from their enemies and from the civil authorities and he assures them that despite these attacks they will be vindicated and will ultimately receive the crown of glory.

In the text Jesus first of all predicts the destruction of the Temple and we know from our history books that this took place in the year 70 AD. There had been a series of riots by the Judeans because of excessive taxation and increased religious tensions as a result of the looting of the Temple by the Roman Governor. In 66 AD, however, the rebels finally took control of Jerusalem. The Romans and their sympathisers fled and regrouped outside the territory occupied by the Judeans. A Roman Legion was dispatched from Syria but they then lost an important battle against the rebels and 6,000 Roman soldiers were massacred. The Emperor Nero then sent Vespasian and his son Titus to sort things out and to re-conquer the territory. Incidentally, both Vespasian and his son would become Emperors in their turn.

After some time, the Romans reached Jerusalem and besieged it for over four months. Inevitably, of course, as a result of overwhelming force they managed to conquer the city. Although it was not actually the intention of Titus to destroy the Temple it caught fire and nothing could be done to save it. The Jewish resistance was crushed and much of the city was destroyed in the process. An enormous number of people were killed and it is claimed that 97,000 Jews were sold into slavery and a significant number of fit men were forced to become gladiators and ended their life in the arena.

So, you can see that this war with the Romans was a complete and total disaster for the Jews and it was what ultimately led to their exile from Palestine; many of them ending up in Eastern Europe or Russia and another significant group spreading to the countries of North Africa.

In the text today we can see how Jesus predicted these events. As he says, 'the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.' The disciples ask when this will happen but he does not answer them. Instead he tells them to prepare themselves for what is to come and for the persecutions that they themselves will inevitably face as a result of embracing the Gospel.

Jesus tells his followers that when they are seized and handed over to the courts it will be their opportunity to bear witness to the truths of the Gospel. Although he wants to prepare them to face such terrible events, he tells them not to worry what to say because he will give them an eloquence and wisdom that their accusers will not be able to resist. And indeed, this proved to be true since many onlookers were so impressed by the courage and wisdom of the martyrs that they themselves made the decision to embrace Christianity.

Christians down the centuries have been constantly called to give witness to Christ. And this essential requirement to give true witness is as relevant today as ever it was. We know that in this country our forebears endured what we call the Penal Times when they were openly attacked for their faith and hundreds were tortured and executed in the most brutal way imaginable. This lasted several hundred years and yet it was impossible for the authorities to eradicate the faith in these lands.

Today we might not be subject to open hostility and persecution from the civil and religious authorities as were our ancestors. But, actually, we find ourselves facing different and more insidious challenges. In the modern world what we are confronted with is, on the one hand, a widespread indifference to religion and, on the other hand, an increasing political correctness that subjects us to social opprobrium if we express views that are in any way different from what social liberals regard as the proper outlook to hold. Make no mistake about it, this is a form of persecution. What is demanded of us is that we keep our religious opinions quiet and if we do not keep our views on moral issues under wraps we will find ourselves ostracised in the workplace or in our schools and colleges.

We ought to resist these pressures and speak up boldly for the truths of the Gospel. For example, we should make our views clear on issues such as marriage. Today with state approval of same-sex marriages it is considered taboo to express the view that the Bible teaches us very clearly that marriage can only ever be between one man and one woman. We know that people such as registrars have lost their jobs because they have refused to go along with the opinions of so-called modern society.

There are others areas where our views are considered suspect, most obviously as in the case of abortion. We need to be aware that in our Universities freedom of speech is increasingly under attack and the expression of particular religious and moral views is not considered acceptable. We need to resist these developments and we need to do what Jesus requires of us which is essentially to have the courage to face up to those who want to keep us silent.

As the Lord says, 'You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.'
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