34th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

A recurring expression in St. John Paul II’s encyclicals is that of “structures of sin”: from people’s sins an entire commerce and social structure of sin is constructed that propagates more evil and sin. In describing Babylon fallen in today’s First Reading John is envisioning one day when sin and evil “go out of business.” Not only will the demand dry up, but the supply as well. Babylon becomes a desolate and deserted city that attracts no one and no longer provides “markets” for the vendors of iniquity. There’ll be no more trafficking of someone or something, and the glamour of evil, against which we promised to be the day of our baptism, will be revealed for what it is, degraded, demeaning, and worthless for the supplier as well as the consumer.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm, taken from the First Reading, is “Blessed are they who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” When the bishop or priest in Mass holds up the Eucharist he says these same words as we look upon Christ in the Eucharist, the Lamb who has ensured that one day evil will never menace us or tempt us again. We too should rejoice in the little victories over sin and evil today, but especially persevere in hope as we continue to wage the good fight.

Evil today may be glamorous, even fashionable, but in faith we’re not buying, confident that others will bankrupt the commerce of of sin as well.

Readings: Revelation 18:1–2, 21–23, 19:1–3, 9a; Psalm 100:1b–5; Luke 21:20–28. See also 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading those who remained faithful to the Lord despite all the persecution and calamity now sing his praises. The Song of Moses refers to the song the Israelites sung when they were delivered from destruction by the Egyptians due to the parting and crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1–21; see Exodus 14:19-31). Christ, the New Moses, has also led them through calamity and persecution into the Promised Land. It’s the moment of victory at the end of time when evil is definitively overthrown.

As part of the faithful’s song they rejoice that the Lord’s “righteous acts have been revealed.” At the end we will see completely how good and righteous Our Lord is. We may not see it clearly in this life, afflicted by suffering and evil, but we must trust and believe in it and it will be revealed one day for all to see.

We’ve already been delivered from evil through Baptism: the crossing of the waters of the Red Sea is a prefiguration of the salvation that comes through the water of Baptism. Let’s live in hope that the victory one day will be complete.

Readings: Revelation 15:1–4; Psalm 98:1–3b, 7–9; Luke 21:12–19. See also 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, and 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading John shares a vision of the Last Judgment. Christ the King comes on a cloud, reminiscent of the prophecy of the Book of Daniel regarding a son of man (see Daniel 7:13). He bears a sickle because the time of harvest is at hand; Our Lord preached about the need for a grain of wheat to fall into the ground and die in order to bear fruit, and now all those grains of wheat have grown to maturity and are ready to be harvested. This is the gathering of the chosen.

At the same time an angel harvests grapes with a sickle to press for making the wine of God’s fury. This wine is an image taken from the prophets (Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15-16, 49:12, 51:7; Ezekiel 23:31-34), the reaping and pressing represent the doom of the ungodly: wines in a press are trampled underfoot.

Do you see the Bread of Life in your future or the wine of wrath? It’s up to you.

Readings: Revelation 14:14–19; Psalm 96:10–13; Luke 21:5–11. See also 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

In today’s First Reading, amidst the calamities and evils narrated in the book of Revelation, John has a consoling vision of the righteous surrounding Our Lord (the Lamb). Mount Zion refers to Jerusalem, the traditional place where the faithful remnant will gather under the Messiah’s reign. The righteous bear the name of the Father and the Lamb on their foreheads, in contrast with the pagans who bear the name or number of the Beast.

They follow the Lamb wherever he goes, which means they followed him all the way to Heaven, but by way of Calvary. They’re faithful disciples who have no deceit on their lips because they didn’t deny Christ or do homage to the Beast. Lying is characteristic of the opponents of Christ. They’re unblemished because they have made a perfect untainted sacrifice of themselves to God, singing a song of praise unique to them because it comes from a heart that loves Our Lord completely.

Any one of us could form part of this group, because everyone is called to holiness. All we have to do is offer Our Lord everything we have and are, fulfilling the duties of our state of life (married, consecrated, ordained, etc.) with love for him and for souls. It’s never too late on this earth to start.

Readings: Revelation 14:1–3, 4b–5; Psalm 24:1b–4b, 5–6; Luke 21:1–4. See also 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, and 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday

The end (of the liturgical year) is upon us, and in today’s Gospel Our Lord encourages us to keep the big picture in mind. It is salutary to ask ourselves once in a while if what we are doing or worrying about right now would matter if the world were to end today. That question is salutary not only for party animals concentrating on a prolonged escape from life and its responsibilities by leaping from thrill to thrill, but also people who bury themselves in their work and their immediate pressing concerns, hoping that down in that foxhole nothing that explodes in life will affect them. Experience shows that reality can get up close and personal at times, and blow up in our faces no matter how much we ignore it or put it far down on our to-do list.

In these last few weeks we’ve considered Our Lord’s invitation to persevere in trials, to hope in the face of evil, to be realistic in acknowledging that challenges will come, to be vigilant, and to have courage in facing and overcoming challenges. It will be a long haul, not easy, and full of lights and shadows, but it’ll be worth it.

Welcome to life on earth. Keep the big picture in mind and you’ll know that good will triumph and that you’re not alone: your fellow believers will support you, and Our Lord himself.

Readings: Daniel 7:15–27; Daniel 3:82–87; Luke 21:34–36.