33 Sunday B - November 18 - Homilies


33 Sunday B November 18

Introduction by the Celebrant

 
  1. Hope in a New World

Some parts of Scripture, like today's readings, speak of calamities and disasters as signs of an old world decaying and Jesus coming in judgment. Today's television and other media bring into our homes the disasters and violence and suffering of the whole world; and people ask: where all this is leading us. These are signs for us today that the world in which we live is decaying, but we should not overlook the signs of hope too in a fairer and more unified world, the crumbling of tyrannies on the right and the left. These are, like budding branches on a tree, signs of hope in a new world that is growing, and in the coming of God among us, his people. Let us celebrate this hope in this eucharist.

 

  1. My Plans for You Are Peace

Today the liturgy speaks to us of God's judgment and the end of time. When and how the very end will come is known to God alone. But this we know for sure: the end time has begun with Christ, when he became one of us in his humanity, died and rose from the dead. With him among us now we live our faith even in the trials of life, not in fear but in the firm hope that God's love and justice will triumph and that Christ will complete in us in God's good time what we try to build up as we trust in him. For we are people of hope in a loving and saving God. Let us express this hope in this eucharist.

 

Penitential Act

If we are afraid, our love is still weak.
Let us ask forgiveness from the Lord
that we have not kept alive our hope and vigilance.
(PAUSE)
Lord Jesus, you will come
with great power and glory.
Keep us from fear.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Jesus Christ, you will gather
your chosen ones from the ends of the earth:
Keep us faithful and vigilant.
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you are near,
standing at the door to make us enter.
Keep us in your love.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord,
forgive us our sins,
and make us see how close you are to us.
Lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

 

Opening Prayer

Let us pray for trust
in God and in his future.
(PAUSE)
God our Father,
through your Son you told us
not to worry about the day or the hour
when the old world will be gone,
for you alone know when it will happen.
Open our eyes to the sign of Jesus' coming
and make us see him
already walking by our side.
Keep us faithful in hope
and vigilant in our love for you
and our concern for one another.

 

 

Textual Comments

 

This is the final teaching of Jesus' public ministry. The language is very symbolic but through our meditation we will be able toenter into it and really enjoy it.
The whole passage is under the heading that this is what Jesus said to his disciples. We can begin by asking ourselves who was the person who spoke to us in this way? It could be anyone; often we find that it was someone we had never thought of as having been sent to us by God. Now we can recognize that he or she (or perhaps they) were truly a “divine” person.
Perhaps it was one of our children; a person in our neighbourhood we had thought little of; or someone from another faith we had tended to look down on. Now we recognize that they were sent to us by God, sent by him to stir us up. They remind us of deep lessons we could learn from the evil we see going on all round us. It was a “time of distress”, many things had gone wrong for us, but life teaches us that times like that also contain an important message for us. Now we can see this more clearly than ever before.

We can divide the passage into three sections. They are connected of course, but the language is very symbolic and it would be better to focus on one at a time, allowing each to touch us very deeply.

Let’s take verses 24 to 27 first. They tell us of the breakdown of stable parts of our surroundings. Things we had taken for granted we couldn’t do without; now life has taught us that we can well survive without them.


Two things happening at the same time however:

-    the scattering of what at first seemed so important that we thought we could never survive without it,


-    the gathering of God’s faithful.

While  areas were being destroyed which we thought we couldn’t do without, God’s faithful ones, his true citizens, were now being gathered into one community, a very happy zealous community. It was the kind of community that many of us outside are not involved in, but we know now that it was really a true and easily verifiable community.

 

This is a teaching about the end of the world. We must however start by letting it remind us of other experiences, times when things whose disappearance we believed would mark the end of our little world actually disappeared – and yet we survived! Things that we had thought were destined to last forever turned out to be just temporary. We had taken things for granted - now we are taught by life that it was merely our little “private world” which has come to an “end”. The ancient order has truly passed away and we are now well and truly into a new one. It is one that we hadn’t prepared ourselves for; it’s advent took us by surprise.

These experiences occur both for communities and for individuals. There were times when we thought that provided we were faithful to certain circumstances our life, our community, would be fine. Now we know how inaccurate our little prejudices were.

 In verses 28 and 29 we read the parable of the fig tree. It speaks to us about life and how it turns out for us. Even in an atmosphere of winter, a small sign of hope was present among us. We can look back now and see how it was there - even though we didn’t recognize it at the time. Now we can see it for what it really is.

In verses 30 and 31, Jesus gives a sense of urgency to the parable. He assures us that whatever happened to him, his words will not pass away - they will last forever. This was a true prophecy in the time of Jesus; in what sense can we say that it is always true when it happens to us today?

We need to put our views of life forward with the same sense of self-confidence, the sense that this is really what God wants us to say to others. We ourselves are significant.
We had not seen the connection between the commandment and God’s pleasure in what we do. As we read it here, it is a statement made by Jesus to us. We must now ask ourselves to what extent can we Christians speak with similar confidence about our own statements to the world of today? They are our own ideas of what is right and what is wrong. We do not say them with the confidence that this is really what God wanted us to say to our people and indeed to the whole world.

Verse 32 can stand by itself as a powerful statement of faith in God’s future. Only the Father knows what was really happening to us. The angels did not and neither did the Son. We can often think of similar surroundings now. We tended to look to the angels or to the Son to give us a correct answer but find none from them. We must therefore have confidence to say what we truly believe in.

 

 

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Reflection

 

The people for whom both our readings for today were written were probably spending much time thinking about the future and wondering were was God to be found in the violence and bloodshed that was going on around them. In these communi.. ties were two people whose names we do not know who had a vibrant vision of hope and they made it their business to share it with those around them. ‘Our God will not fail us so do not give up in the face of hopelessness or despair’ was the gist of their message. This is still the heart of the gospel message, so let’s ask for the faith to believe it and the courage to share it.
 

 

Gospel: Mk 13:24-32

 

One of the underlying themes running right through Mark’s record of his preaching is the need to cope with groups who have entered the church but who have not really abandoned aspects of their earlier spirituality that do not really fit with Jesus’s message. We see it in the clashes at the beginning of the gospel where opinions held by members of the church — probably exdisciples of John the Baptist who did not really appreciate how different Jesus’s view was — are subtly undermined by having them expressed by ‘pharisees’ and others only to be rejected by Jesus. Here we see the same process at work with regard to apocalypticism — which again may be a legacy of John the Baptist brought into the church by some who were originally his followers.

The fundamental element in all apocalyptic preaching is that the end is a great crunch — fire, brimstone, the great battle from which a little band will be rescued — and that it is coming soon: indeed, so soon, that you had better hurry up and join the elect who will be saved. We know that this approach to religion was widespread within Judaism at the time (e.g. the Book of Daniel), and that there were groups getting ready for the end (Qumran), and that John the Baptist preached his baptism as a sort of ‘last chance saloon’. Jesus, by contrast, preached a kingdom that is coming, but it comes in gentleness, the end is the heavenly banquet, and God is characterised as forgiving love rather than avenging justice. For Mark, the Son of Man has come (Mk 2:10), but his coming has not brought a catastrophe for the world, but only for Jesus himself: ‘And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again’ (8:31).

So how does Mark challenge apocalypticism here? On the one hand he has Jesus use the language of apocalypticism, but then negate its very basis: ‘but as for that day or hour,’ nobody, not even himself, knows. An apocalypticism where no one but the Father knows when the programme will have run its course is a contradiction. It is as if Mark is saying to his audience: of course you can engage with apocalyptic language, but it is all quite irrelevant to Christian discipleship. Mark’s subtlety was no doubt inspired by the desire to keep his congregations together — apocalyptic followers are inherently sectarian for it essential to their spirituality that they split off to form the ‘true,’‘pure remnant’ — but, alas, this section of his gospel (and its parallels) have been understood down the centuries by many Christians as Jesus’s approbation of an apocalyptic approach to faith.
 


HOMILY NOTES

 

1. The gospel puts before us the great image of the Son of Man returning to the earth and gathering his people. This dramatic image — the stuff of many a religious nightmare — arrests our attention and focuses us, at this time each year, on one little line in the creed:
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

Unfortunately, the image of today’s gospel is so striking that down the centuries generations of Christians have become so excited about the ‘apocalypse’, that they have forgotten that proclaiming that the Lord will come at the end of time is only the second half of the equation. So what is the first half?

2. Whenever we think about the end when the Lord, the Son of the Father will come again; we must also think that the Lord, the Son of the Father, is the one through whom the universe came in existence at the very beginning. This is what we profess earlier in the creed: Through him all things were made.

And the Lord, the Son of the Father, who was there at the beginning and will be there at the End, is also the one who is with humanity as our source of light and life:
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

3. To profess to be a follower of Jesus is to assert that he is the Alpha — there at the beginning — and the Omega — there at the End — and with us now.

4. But what does this mean? It means that we have to think of ourselves, all living creatures, and all creation as in a situation between God’s love at the Alpha, the beginning, and God’s love at the Omega, the end. Between these times we have been entrusted with the creation: we hold all creation, all life, on trust from God.

5. Jesus makes it very clear that we do not know when the end will come: ‘But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’ Our task is to act as the people who have been given responsibility to use the creation well, to act as good stewards, and to remember that when we abuse it we are breaking God’s fundamental loving trust in us.

6. We are all on a journey from the Alpha towards the Omega. How we make the journey -— how we behave along that road, how we act as pilgrims who have no notion when they will arrive — is all-important.

7. During the coming week we shall hear many reports in the media about climate change. We will hear of a new initiative to cut down on energy use. We may take a load of bottles to the bottle bank for recycling, or we might just switch off some lights or gadgets that are running on stand-by. When we hear these reports or do these things, we might think that all this has little do with religion or faith or waiting for the Lord to return to judge the living and the dead: we could not be more wrong. We, as the people who have professed the universe to have been made through the Son and who believe he will come again, are the people who can set all ecological concerns in context. The creation is God’s; we have been entrusted with it; we are called to be good stewards.

 

 

Prayer Reflection



Lord, we remember with gratitude the times of crisis in our lives:
       - a spouse proved unfaithful;
       - we lost our job;
       - we fell into a serious sin;
       - we learned we were seriously ill;
       - we lost someone dear to us.
Our world fell apart in those days, after that time of distress.
The sun was darkened, the moon lost its brightness;
the stars came falling from heaven,
and the great powers of heaven were shaken.
But you did not abandon us;
 in the midst of all that turmoil we received a great grace
       - we understood for the first time the meaning of faith;
       - we discovered inner resources we didn't know we had;
       - friends rallied around us.
We experienced your saving power coming in the clouds
with great power and glory and sending your angels to gather us,
your chosen ones who had been scattered to the four winds,
from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.

"The more solitary I am, the more affection I have for all my brothers." Thomas Merton
Lord, when we are driven by our egos we put people into categories:
rich and poor, saved and sinners,
developed countries and third world countries.
When we enter into our nothingness before you,
letting the stars we aspire to fall from heaven
and the great powers to be shaken,
we experience your angels gathering together all those people
whom in our willfulness we had scattered to the four winds.

"If we listen attentively we shall hear, amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, a gentle stirring of life and hope."  Albert Camus
Lord, we thank you for those people who,
when everyone else sees only deep winter,
perceive that the twigs of the fig tree have become supple,
and therefore summer is near,
a new era is coming, is at the very gates,
and that before this generation has passed away
new and wonderful things will have taken place.

Lord, prayer is trusting totally in your love,
knowing with unshakeable confidence
that heaven and earth will certainly pass away
but your love for us will not pass away.

Lord, the freedom which Jesus bequeathed to us enables us to do our best
without having to worry about when or where it will bear fruit.
Like Jesus, we are quite content to acknowledge
that as regards the day and the hour of success, no one knows it,
no one but you, our loving Father.

"The dark period is over and Europe is on the threshold of a new era."  Pope John Paul II in Hungary, August 1991
Lord, we thank you that we have seen stars fall from heaven
and great powers shaken.
Your chosen ones who were scattered to the four winds
are being gathered to build a new future.

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ILLUSTRATIONS:

 1) The end time phobia: French "prophet" and astrologer Nostradamus (1503-1566), foretold that the world would end when Easter fell on April 25.  This happened in 1666, 1734, 1886 and 1943; it will occur again in 2038.  In 1379, St. Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419), a Spanish Dominican monk, basing his prediction on the number of verses in the Book of Psalms (2,537 verses), predicted the demise of the world in AD 3936.  By the end of  1998, the Mount of Olives Hotel, run by Palestinian Muslims, wrote to 2,000 Protestant Christian groups in the U.S. asking "How would you like to be reserving your rooms at the Mount of Olives Hotel, to wait for  the ‘second coming’ of  Jesus on the first day of the new millennium,  2000 A.D.?"  Scientists, also, fueled public anxiety by citing a series of possible ways, including, nuclear war and collision with a comet, in which the world could come to an end.  A very popular book in 1989 was 89 Reasons Why the World will End in 1989.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses frightened gullible followers at least 3 times during the last century with their “end of the world” predictions in 1914, 1918 and 1974.  It is this paranoid fear that led people to die in the mass suicides organized by Heaven’s Gate and Jim Jones.  The film Omega Code, released in October, 1999, was an independent movie funded by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the largest Evangelical Christian TV network in the U.S.  It was promoted by a team of 2,400 U.S. Evangelical pastors.  The plot involved a portrayal of the “rapture” at the imminent “Second coming” of Jesus , when “born again” and "saved" Christians, both alive and dead, are supposed to fly upward in the air to meet Jesus.  The film was rated in the top 10 grossing movies for October, 1999.  Over 17 million copies of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' novel Left Behind on the “Second coming,” were sold by July 27, 2000.  This is how modern man reacts to the reality of the coming of the end of the world.  Hence, today’s readings remind us that we should be well prepared and always ready to meet Jesus at any time, daily in our brothers and sisters and at the end of our lives or the end of the world, whichever comes first.
 
2) Bingo first! Who cares about the Second coming?: There is a second group of people who ignore Christ’s Parousia and stick to their addictions. A woman was hurrying home from work. This was her Bingo night. Suddenly she spotted this fellow standing on the edge of the pavement holding aloft a placard which read: The end of the world is near. She went up to him and said, ‘You say the end of the world is near.’ ‘That’s right, missus,’ he replied. ‘But are you sure?’ ‘Quite sure, missus.’ ‘And you say it’s near.’ ‘Yes, missus.’ ‘How near?’ ‘Oh, very near.’ ‘Could you be more precise?’ ‘This very night, Missus’. She paused for a moment to reflect on this. Then in a voice full of anxiety, she asked, ‘Tell me, son. Will it be before or after Bingo?’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).

3) Two Polish men were taking their first train trip to Warsaw on the train.  A vendor came down the corridor selling bananas which they'd never seen before. Each bought a banana. The first man eagerly peeled the banana and bit into it just as the train went into a dark tunnel.  When the train emerged from the tunnel, he looked across to his friend and said, "I wouldn't eat that if I were you." "Why not?” asked his friend. “Because, it makes you temporarily blind.”

3) A motorist with poor eyesight was driving through a dense fog and was trying desperately to stay within range of the taillights of the car ahead of him.  As he squinted and worried his way along, trying to stay on course with those taillights, the car in front suddenly stopped, and his car hit the car in the front.  The driver of the rear car got out and demanded to know why the other driver came to such an abrupt stop.  "I had to," he replied, "I'm in my own garage!"

4) Once upon a time a TV commentator (on PBS) delivered a pessimistic editorial on a Friday evening broadcast (taped earlier in the day). The world was in grim shape, he told the camera. Global warming was worse than anyone had thought it was. The population of the world would double again in the next twenty year. It was likely that an asteroid would hit earth before the end of the next century. Rage was increasing the third world countries against our wealth.

The races were polarizing in America. The crime had turned up again. Our schools were total failures and would not, could not get any better. There was a drug and alcohol epidemic in white suburban high schools. Divorce rates were increasing. Abortions were at an all time high. A wave of bad news was sweeping the earth and thee was nothing anyone could do about it.

When the taping was over, he got into his Mercedes and drove rapidly into the country to escape the Friday night traffic rush. At his house on the shore of the lake, he relaxed in the sauna, sipping from a large glass of Barolo wine, swam in the pool, wrapped himself in a robe, and sat on the deck as the sun set. He poured himself a second glass of wine and, as the sky turned red and then purple that life was very good indeed.

5.  "You’ll wish you were Jewish!!"  A Protestant minister and a Catholic priest enjoyed teasing their Jewish rabbi friend, continually asking him when he was going to convert to their faith.  When the Holidays rolled around, the rabbi sent them a card with the following: "Season’s Greetings!  Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish; When the Messiah comes, you’ll wish you were Jewish!!"
6.  Missed the “rapture” by a minute:  A certain man, Herbert Washington by name, was so taken up by the nearness of Christ’s second coming and “the rapture” that he became a pain in the neck to his coworkers.  So his coworkers hatched a plan to pay him back in his own coin.  One day, when Herbert went to the washroom, they laid their work clothes on their chairs and hid in the supply room.  When Herbert came back from the washroom, he thought the rapture had taken place.  The Muslim janitor, who was part of the joke, pretended to have witnessed everyone disappear and ran around the office feigning panic.  Herbert fell to the ground clutching his heart and screaming, "I knew you'd forget me, Jesus!  What did I do wrong?"  He was rushed to a local hospital with what was diagnosed as a mild heart attack. (Fr. Munachi).
7.  The Second Coming. A Sunday school teacher asked his class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?  “NO!” the children all answered.  “If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”  Again, the answer was, “NO!”  Again the teacher asked, “Well, then, if I were kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?”  Again, they all answered, "NO!"  “Well then how can I get into Heaven?”  A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”  Good insight for a five-year old!
8.  Somnambulist or Methodist? "Be constantly on the watch!  Stay awake," Jesus commands.  The signs-of-the-times are such that, clearly, this is no time for somnambulists.  A somnambulist, as you know, is a person who walks in his sleep.  On the eve of his wedding, a young man decided to confess all to his fiancée.  He went to her and said, "My love, there is something I feel I must tell you before we are married; something you must know. It may make a difference in your feeling toward me.  You see, I am a somnambulist."  The young lady thought for a moment, then replied, "Oh that's all right.  There's no problem.  I was raised a Methodist.  We can go to your Church one Sunday and to mine the next."
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9) Several Stories:



Homily from Father James Gilhooley
In 1981, a man left $57,000 in his will to Jesus. It was
for His own use when He returned at the Second Coming. The money was to be invested at the highest interest in the meantime.

Does anyone really think that Jesus will be shopping at a posh department store for a new seamless robe and sandals upon His return?  Does anyone feel money is what He shall require from us at the Parousia? Is this what the Nazarene is all about?

Christ is more interested in the way we conduct our lives this moment rather than tomorrow. He is more eager to see us improve life for others today than He is to remove us from it.

Andrew Greeley has some wise thoughts on this point. The Second Coming, the New Age, the New Epoch, he says, can and should be happening throughout this day and week.

I saw the Second Coming at a Soup Kitchen where I worked. A white woman volunteer gave a black man soup, pasta, and coffee. As he was leaving, he thanked her. Then she noticed the bad condition of his shoes. She told him to wait. From the clothing closet, she brought several pair. The woman got down on her knees and fitted each pair. Finally, she found his fit. In this forty minute encounter, Jesus in His Second Coming was present. I was watching Him washing His apostles' feet all over again.

I witnessed the New Age today at a fast-food restaurant. A busload of children treated their waitress with kindness. "Please" and "thank you" were more plentiful than hamburgers and cokes. They cleaned their table. They left a generous tip and a happy waitress. There was no doubt but that the Lord was present.

I see the New Epoch every time one of you gives me $100
and asks me to give it to a family having a difficult time. If one looks sharp enough, you can see a smile on Christ's face.

I observed the New Order yesterday. I was lost and could not find the correct road. I asked directions of a young man. Though he was in as much a hurry as I, he U-turned and told me to follow him for several miles. Then he put my car on the correct road. Can you not hear Jesus applaud as I tell you this story?

I heard of the Second Coming yesterday. A mother told me of her return from a long journey. On her kitchen table, she found a dozen carnations waiting to greet her. The benefactor was her teen son. That day she saw Christ in her boy.

I saw the New Epoch last week. A priest had heard that hostiles in a parish were gleefully giving another priest, whom he hardly knew, a hard time. He phoned. "May I buy you a good lunch?" The trip cost him not only the restaurant bill but also a round trip of 140 miles, and over half a tank of gas. Was not the Nazarene riding with him that day?

You, I am sure, can fill in the blanks and tell me of the times when you saw the Second Coming this past week. And hopefully you were the cause of it. If negative, just as hopefully you will bring it about tomorrow. We ask Jesus, "How do we prepare for dying?" He responds, "By living."

As Greeley says, the answer to the "when?" of the Second Coming can be readily given. The Lord is present anywhere people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness.

A man helped Mother Teresa in Calcutta. He was swept off his feet as he watched the small giant wash sick bodies. He said to her, "I want to remain here permanently with you." The woman, whose wrinkled face showed thousands of miles of wear, said with a smile, "No, no. It is but an illusion. Go home and bloom where you are planted. The message that each one of us is a member of God's family is as much needed where you came from as it is here.  We must do small things with great love." This last line so moved US President George W Bush that he quoted it in his brief inaugural address in Washington, DC in 2001.

This week why not see how many times you yourself can bring Jesus back to earth? Here's a proverb to motivate you. "I sought my God; my God I could not see. I sought my soul; my soul eluded me. I sought my neighbor, and I found all three."
Become God's miracle for somebody today.