34th Week, Monday, Nov 23

 Apocalypse 14:1-5 / Luke 21:1-4 

I saw 144,000 people: They bore the Lamb's name and followed him. 

Teachers of high school freshmen tell you that one of the first things a new freshman does is to get something with the school name on it, for example, a jacket or a T-shirt. 

Wearing something with the school name on it is a statement of allegiance. It means the students' loyalties belong to the school whose name they bear on their person. This is the point behind the 144,000 people in today's reading, who bear the name of the Lamb on their foreheads. It's a statement of their allegiance. But the 144,000 do more than bear the name of the Lamb. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They not only proclaim their allegiance but reflect it in their lives.

How clearly does our daily life reflect our allegiance to the Lamb? "Wherever you go, I will go. . .. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Ruth 1:16


Those who have not given in to the attraction and even persecution by paganism and the power of the world (Roman Empire) are the remnant of Christ marked with the sign of Christ and of the Father. They have been loyal to him, as they have preferred the poverty of Christ above power, prestige and personal safety. They did not belie their integrity as Christians. Our reading presents them to us as praising God in a heavenly liturgy.


The number 144,000 has been the topic of discussion and speculation. Of course, if that number is understood as literal instead of symbolic, then many absurd problems will arise.  One absurd fundamentalistic opinion would be that there will be only 144,000 that will be saved and these are the chosen ones for salvation. But as it is, the number 144,000 is the product of 1,200 multiplied by 120 and the meaning here is that the number 12 represents God's people and hence 144,000 represents the multitude of God's people in heaven - actually a countless number.  As the 1st reading puts it, they are the people who "never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found on them." Yes, these are the people who know the cost of following Jesus and were prepared to pay the price and indeed paid the price. The poverty-stricken widow in the gospel also knew what it meant to present an offering to God - and that means everything.  Her two coins were of little value but it was her all and her everything, and that was why Jesus said she had put in more than anybody. We may think that it was absurd that the poverty-stricken widow would want to give her all and everything. But would we also think that it was absurd that we would never allow a lie to pass our lips and that no fault can be found on us?  The "144,000" didn't think it so, because they knew the price of following Jesus and were prepared to do so. May we also think likewise.


Once in the temple Jesus sat opposite the trumpets, as they were called. They were the trumpet shaped collection boxes with a big opening where people put in their money. Jesus sat there and watched. Some might consider this a distraction in the temple. Jesus had no such scruple. When prayer means seeking and finding God in all things, even a distraction becomes the content of a prayer. What Jesus, however, saw delighted him. A poor old widow put in two small coins. Truly God does not need our money. The priests often do need money to serve God and his people better. The faithful also find that they have an obligation to support those who work for them. Mass stipends have the same intention: The principle is: who serves the altar lives by the altar. He shares in the gifts, sacrificed. But what Jesus saw was different, it is not the rich who support the Church but the poor old widow. Her special merit before God is: In her love for God, she gave her all.


The widow goes beyond the law. In her generosity, she does not only give all she has, she has only what she has given. People who are poor often know well how to give because they know what it means to be poor and dependent; they know how to live in the hands of God.


Let us Pray

Lord our God, generous Father, simple people put us often to shame by their total generosity and straightforward loyalty. Make us realize, Lord, that, like your Son, the real poor of heart often make us understand who you are: a God who gives himself. Grant us too this kind of generous love and loyalty through Jesus Christ our Lord.