34th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord prepares us for when our faith is put on trial. It’s not some future eschatological and apocalyptic moment: even today Christians are ridiculed, labelled, even beheaded for professing their faith. Our Lord said we’d be a sign of contradiction in the world, so it’s no surprise that when we give witness to him there’ll be a reaction. It may not be a civil court, but it may be our family, the public square, our school, or our place of work. It’s what makes us think twice before saying grace at meals around those we don’t know well, about putting a crucifix or holy card in our cubicle or dorm where others might see, about seeing our faith as something, alongside politics, that should not be brought up in polite conversation.

Our Lord gives us the secret to breaking this little internal stalemate between a desire to share our faith and a fear of how it will turn out: trusting in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does the talking, if we are living a life that is attentive to the Spirit. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll show how little of our faith we really know and live: that’s the Spirit talking in us to work on our prayer life, examine our lifestyle, and read the Catechism a little each day to understand our faith more clearly. You may find that puts you “on trial” before your family, friends, and colleagues, but it also gives you the spiritual resources to give witness to Our Lord and a great peace knowing you’ve suffered something for the sake of his name.

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to day to help us see where and how we’re being put “on trial,” and for the insight and grace to give good testimony.

Readings: Daniel 5:1–6, 13–14, 16–17, 23–28; Daniel 3:62–67; Luke 21:12–19.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord predicts the destruction of the Temple, but also addresses the question of whether this will signify the end of the world. Although his disciples didn’t understand it at the time, he was preparing us all for the long haul. He warns us that whenever we think we have it figured out it is just as sign that we don’t. The societal upheaval in Palestine around the destruction of the Temple is just one of many since Our Lord gave this teaching: in the centuries that followed the very Romans who destroyed the Temple had their own empire fall, and in the East, Greek culture was overrun by Islamic culture.

In some parts of the world, even today, there are cultural upheavals and uprisings. Our Lord said they would come, but they are not a sign that the end is going to happen immediately. There will be cultural upheavals and natural disasters, but Our Lord tells us to not be terrified by them and to not follow the first person who comes along in his name saying he’s the Savior or that the end has arrived. Obviously on a natural and human level we’d have to be terrified by the thought of such events, but Our Lord invites us today to live these things on a supernatural level: with faith in him and hope that good will triumph.

Let’s renew our faith and hope today in the Son of Man, knowing that whatever upheavals may come, he will sustain us and triumph in the end.

Readings: Daniel 2:31–45; Daniel 3:57–61; Gospel Luke 21:5–11.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s readings we see two generous people who put God before their comfort: Daniel and the widow. In today’s First Reading Daniel knows eating the food and drink from the King’s table, food normally sacrificed to foreign gods first, would be blasphemy and idolatry, since in the mentality of the time eating such food is a sign of communion with the deity to whom it has been sacrificed. The food would probably also violate the dietary laws of the Israelites, since specific animals were forbidden under Mosaic Law. Daniel didn’t give in; he decided to put God first by being vegetarian, despite the risk it entailed, and the Lord blessed him.

In today’s Gospel a poor widow puts the house of God before her financial security. The Temple represented God among his people so by supporting the Temple she was supporting the Lord. We don’t know how things turned out for her, but it’s certain that the Lord blessed her for her selfless generosity.

Let’s examine our lives today and see whether somewhere in them we’re not putting God first.

Readings: Daniel 1:1–6, 8–20; Daniel 3:52–56; Luke 21:1–4. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

Solemnity of Christ the King

Today we celebrate the last Sunday in Ordinary time by celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King. The liturgical year symbolizes the history of salvation, and the Solemnity of Christ the King celebrates when, at the end of time, salvation history comes to its fulfillment. We conclude the liturgical year today by remembering when, as John tells us in today’s Second Reading, Christ will come amid the clouds, and all eyes will see him. It is a moment to celebrate that Jesus is the Lord of Life and History. As today’s First Reading reminds us, Jesus is not just Our Lord.

Daniel reminds us that Jesus, after completing His mission on earth, appeared before Our Heavenly Father and “received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion.” When Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin, and the High Priest asked him if he was the Christ, Jesus responded with the very words we have considered in the First Reading today, and in exchange for declaring His kingship, he was beaten, tortured, and nailed to his throne, the Cross. And all these horrors didn’t change the fact that he was the Lord of Life and History, a fact we celebrate today.

In the Gospel today, Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world, and that he had come to it to testify to the truth. Those who belong to the truth hear his voice. Those who belong to the truth let Christ reign in their lives, even Christ crucified, because he is truly our King. This is why we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!” whenever we recite the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus received his Kingship by suffering and dying on the cross and fulfilling his mission, His Father invested him with eternal life. We see the glory of his kingship in the Resurrection, and we know that the reign of eternal life and love will come for each of us, if we belong to the truth and hear Jesus’ voice.

The Second Reading today also speaks of that day when Our Lord returns and everyone, good and bad, will see Him: the Last Judgment at the end of the world. After Jesus’ resurrection, before he ascended to His Heavenly Father, he only appeared to those who had believed in Him. In the eyes of the world he had suffered, died, and disappeared. St. John reminds us in the Second Reading that the day will come when Jesus returns and all will see him, including those who pierced him. Everyone will see him at the end of salvation history, good and bad. If Jesus is the Lord of Life and History, what will happen to those who persist in their rebellion, who do not let Him reign in their lives? It is a call for all of us to pray and sacrifice for those far from God.

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us see how, in our day to day life, we can be be true witnesses to God’s love so that the desire that Christ’s Kingdom Come be reflected in our actions as well as our words. May His Kingdom Come.

Readings: Daniel 7:13–14; Psalm 93:1–2, 5; Revelation 1:5–8; John 18:33b–37.

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that even something as beautiful as matrimony is only a means to an end, and if lived well, a happy end. The Sadducees denied the Resurrection, and by seeing marriage as an end, not a means, they couldn’t understood how the Resurrection would work, in part because they didn’t understand what the Resurrection would be, since their outlook was so worldly. The Sadducees are the distant result of the attempt by King Antiochus Epiphanes to Hellenize Jewish culture, which, as today’s First Reading reminds us (along with other readings this week) ended badly for him, but not without leaving its mark. The Sadducees see marriage according to reason and civil order: it results in an obligation to continue the family line by some member of the family marrying the widow and providing her with children who’ll care for her in the future and also continue the family line. To some degree the question degrades into being one of property law: after the Resurrection, who does she belong to and who has obligations toward her?

It’s no coincidence that when marriage vows are made today the clause is included “until death do us part”: in eternity marriage will have already served its purpose, which is the fostering of unconditional and exclusive love between a man and a woman that is often blessed by children who are loved and learn to love as well. All this is a means to enjoying an unconditional love for God and for others that will blossom in eternity. Even physical marital intimacy is a means toward that end, but, as we know, that physical intimacy has the danger of being debased, exploited, and even “weaponized”; if it stops being something good for the spouses and closed by the spouses to bringing children into the world, it becomes the means to an unhappy end. Marriage when lived well are a foreshadowing and a path to the happy and loving life to come in eternity.

Let’s pray today that all marriages be lived well and become homes and schools of unconditional love that help us love God unconditionally too. Let’s also pray for all marriages and families in difficulty.

Readings: 1 Maccabees 6:1–13; Psalm 9:2–4, 6, 16, 19; Luke 20:27–40. See also 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.