33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading John is given a glimpse of what Heaven will be like in the future. The imagery may be a little strange and disconcerting if you try to picture it literally; John is trying to express symbolically what it will be like and who will be there. The four living creatures symbolize the presence of all creation, and the eyes covering them symbolize God’s knowledge and concern for them. The lion, calf, man and eagle represent what is what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in creation. The twenty-four elder represent the Twelve apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel, and the seven spirits of God represent seven angels who stand in God’s presence (two of which we know as Gabriel and Raphael). Lastly, the thunder and lightning are typically signs of God’s appearance and activity.

This vision of Heaven may not entirely quad with our own: are we just going to be falling on our faces forever telling the Lord how great he is? The question should be, what would give us reason to do so? If you remember fondly your high school graduation you remember it like a moment of accomplishment in your life where a limitless future, forged by your own hand, seemed before you. Hopefully you also remembered someone who helped you make it through high school: a parent, a teacher, or a friend. It’s a moment of joy and a moment of gratitude. John’s vision and ours should be exactly that: not just joy at having finished something and having a bright future ahead of us, but gratitude toward those who make it possible, because we never get there alone.

We haven’t “graduated” life yet, but a bright future lies in store for us if we work hard for it and let Our Lord help us achieve it.

Readings: Revelation 4:1–11; Psalm 150:1b–6; Luke 19:11–28. See also 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II and 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

Graduate caps thrown into air

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading Our Lord puts the churches of Sardis and Laodicea on guard against the dangers of complacency and mediocrity. In some way the believers at Sardis believe they’re living their lives in accordance with what the Lord expects of them: maybe it’s a Christianity that wants to remain comfortable, or an attitude of just doing the minimum necessary as insurance. Our Lord warns them that they’re not doing enough. The imagery of the garments and being dressed in white refer to the sanctifying gift of their baptism, which for many has become soiled for their actions. A white and clean garment not only signifies fidelity to baptismal grace, but remaining in a state of grace, striving for holiness.

If the church at Sardis is doing the wrong things, the danger for the church at Laodicea is that they’re not doing anything at all. Like a swig of lukewarm beverage that doesn’t refresh whether the weather is hot or cold, and has all the flavor of a plain tofu, the Lord expects something, but doesn’t receive it. They think they have all they need, but they don’t. Our Lord describes himself as standing at the door, knocking. Both Sardis and Laodicea are leaving him out on the porch, not welcoming him into their home.

Does Our Lord have a home in your heart? If you listen quietly, in prayer, and try to live as he wishes, you’ll open the door to him. Accept no substitutes.

Readings: Revelation 3:1–6, 14–22; Psalm 15:2–4b, 5; Luke 19:1–10. See also 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II

Today’s First Reading, a preparation for the upcoming Solemnity of Christ the King next Sunday, is taken from the beginning of the book of Revelation. Our Lord addresses seven churches through John’s prophecy, and he starts today with Ephesus. The lamp stands among which Our Lord walks symbolize his presence among those churches. Our Lord acknowledges that the Ephesians have remained perseverant and on guard against false apostles bringing false teachings, but warns them that their love has waned.

In any loving relationship the flame can dim and go out if a constant effort is not made to keep it burning brightly and intensely. It starts with the little things: a term of endearment no longer used, less time together, even a loving gaze withheld. It also starts when you focus more on what you should be getting out of the relationship and not on what you should be putting into it. Our Lord warns that the Ephesians may have their lamp taken away: when charity dies completely there is no more Church. The lamp has to be kept burning bright, and its fuel is love for Christ and love for others in Christ.

The little things can be a sign of love waning, but they can also be the path to stoking up love’s flame again. Ask Our Lord today to help you examine the fervor of your love for him and for those you love.

Readings: Revelation 1:1–4, 2:1–5; Psalm 1:1–4, 6; Luke 18:35–43. See also 1st Week of Advent, Friday33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

In today’s Gospel the disciples ask when the Temple will end, and the Lord starts to explain when the world as we know it will end: his Second Coming. Our Lord gives some signs, but doesn’t give them exactly what they’re looking for: a signal. He describes calamities: social upheaval, wars, natural disasters, and persecutions. All of those have existed and will exist during the Church’s pilgrimage on earth, even before the end of history and Our Lord’s return in glory. Our Lord won’t give us a signal, but he will give us the secret to survival: perseverance.

In today’s First Reading the prophet Malachi describes the wicked on the day of the Lord as burning away in a flash; stubble burns quickly and intensely. Yet the just will see the same event as warmth, light, and healing. Even though Our Lord foretells persecution and calamities, we should focus on why he is coming, as the Psalm today reminds us: “The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.” The only people who don’t want justice are bad people, and their injustice will be swept away, no matter how enduring it seemed.

The just will experience moments of pain: the prophet tells us the Day of the Lord will bring healing, which implies that there’ll be healing needed. It will require endurance, not resignation. In today’s Second Reading Paul warns against those who have faced the possibility of the Day of the Lord’s imminence by not working and not living their lives normally. If everything occurs as Our Lord describes in today’s Gospel that attitude is a recipe for disaster. Perseverance requires work and grace. When we’re put on trial it won’t just be our spiritual toughness, but the Holy Spirit that will help us endure and realize that even as we suffer we give witness, and the Spirit gives witness through us. Our suffering and perseverance will inspire others to believe and be saved as well.

Ask Our Lord today to help you stock up on what will truly help you persevere in the long haul: faith, hope, and charity. Don’t focus on when life as we know it will end, but on how to live it in holiness and justice.

Readings: Malachi 3:19–20a; Psalm 98:5–9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7–12; Luke 21:5–19. See also 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II, and the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

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.