November 16, 2012

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Daniel provides the first reading this weekend.

Michael, the “great prince” of the angels, is the center of attention. He is one of the few angels mentioned by name in the Scriptures.

Michael’s role in Daniel is to defend God’s people. In this role, he is God’s servant and instrument. Along with the other angels, Michael is featured in this Scripture passage as opposites of the devils, the fallen angels.

In this reading, Michael protects God’s people. The fundamental point is that God protects the good from everlasting death and defeat before evil.

The setting is very trying, a scene of great distress. Persecution, hardship and terror are everywhere.

Some people will die. However, the names of all people will be recorded. The dead will awake. Some will live forever. Others will be cast into eternal doom.

Living forever will be the wise people, who in the Scriptures are not necessarily persons of high intelligence, but rather those able to perceive the greatness of God in all things.

For the second reading, the Church offers us a selection from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews.

This book of the New Testament, which is majestic in its eloquence and deep in its message, extols Jesus.

Drawing upon symbols in ancient Judaism, it describes Jesus as the one and eternal high priest. Jesus offered the ultimate and profound sacrifice.

One with God, Jesus sits at the right hand of God’s throne, judging the good and the bad. He has vanquished all enemies of God, and enemies of the right and just.

He sanctifies—makes holy—all of the people who have been perfected by their turning to God and by having had their sins forgiven.

St. Mark’s Gospel supplies this weekend’s third reading.

Scholars assume that this Gospel was the first of the four to be written. Many believe that it was composed in Rome. Some think that the author had connections with St. Peter. They wonder if the author of this Gospel might not have been a scribe, writing at the behest of the illiterate Peter.

In any case, the Gospel apparently was written in a time of anxiety. Outright persecution lay menacingly on the horizon. Christians knew what it meant to be on the wrong side of power in the Roman Empire because the empire played for keeps.

Maybe this experience led the Evangelist to include in the Gospel text the Lord’s words about “trials of every sort.”

Difficult times might come, but no power on Earth, not even that of the mighty Roman emperor, would be able to thwart God’s plan of salvation.

Even if evil seemed to prevail, the heavenly forces of God would descend from the clouds in glory and transport the faithful to everlasting joy and reward.

Reflection

The readings this weekend set the stage for next weekend, the great feast of Christ the King.

They also address a situation as ancient in Christianity as the days of the Apostle Peter in Rome. They speak of the devout living among the enemies of God amid harsh times.

In frankness, the readings put reality before us. Life on Earth is no paradise. It has never been paradise for anyone loyal to God.

A month ago, millions of people in this country coped with the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Actual events remind us every day that the world is not safe. Evil is mighty. Enemies of God are real and active.

Leading us astray in our own hearts are temptations from “the world, the flesh and the devil.”

Just as real is the fact that nothing is strong enough to stand against God. He gives us everlasting life. Jesus is God. Christians have nothing to fear because Jesus is their guide and protector.

Next weekend, in this spirit then, the Church will joyfully celebrate the feast of Christ the King. †

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