Saturday, November 14, 2009

33 Sunday of Ordinary Time

Here is the Homily for the 33rd Sunday.

When I was a kid I was fascinated by end of the world movies. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in which movies like “Earthquake” and “Asteroid” were hugely popular. These were the times of the Nuclear thread and the Russian empire so, as much as we were encouraged to have a “good outlook on life”, these movies took advantage of the fact that our future was a big mystery and that in our small little world; we were at the mercy of invisible and cosmic forces which could have affected our lives in the most unexpected ways.
And you know what? Things have not changed that much. The Russians have been replaced by the Islamic terrorist, the flu virus and Global warming; but we are all still trying to make our children grow with a sense of security. On the other hand, we are all still flocking to see movies like “2012” and “I am legend”.
Now do not think for a moment that is all new. The reality of an uncertain future and of the human helplessness against cosmic powers has been a topic of conversation since the beginning of recorded history. But it is only in the last 30 or 40 years that it has become a very profitable industry.
Even before Jesus times Jewish religious leaders and prophets used what is called “apocalyptic language”, prophetic language that spoke of great catastrophes and the end of the world as a way to encourage their listeners during times of great turmoil and suffering. Take for example today’s first reading from the book of Daniel, these words were written during a time in which the Jews were suffering a horrendous persecution by the Greek King, Antiochus. This man tried to eradicate the Jewish religion by murdering or enslaving the whole population of Jerusalem. He went as far as desecrating the Jewish Temple by slaughtering pigs in the main altar in honor of the god Zeus.
You can imagine effect these events had in the mind of the Jewish nation. So the author knowing the mental anguish his audience was suffering tried to reach them by taking his story to the next level. Not only the temple remains desecrated and the people were enslaved or dead, but the time will come in which God will bring a greater calamity not only to Israel but to the whole world. But do not despair!... This is the time in which God will reveal His glory to the nations and reward those who remained faithful to the end.
Jesus, been the master story teller he was, borrows this technique of apocalyptic storytelling, to make some very important points to his disciples. In today’s Gospel we hear echoes of the prophet Daniel. Jesus also talks about the tremendous cosmic events that will happen at the end of time, and he also mentions angels coming to gather those that have maintained the faith to the end. But unlike Daniel or any of the previous apocalyptic prophets, Jesus inserts himself into the story. This is not Daniel talking about some mysterious undetermined point in the future. This is Jesus returning in glory after His death and sending His angels to gather His flock.
By doing this, by becoming part of the apocalyptic prophesy Jesus accomplishes 3 things. First he makes the end of the world a reality. The world will end, Jesus will return, faithful will be rewarded. Heaven and earth will pass but His words will not pass away. Second he gives a mandate to His church: Be attentive to the signs of the times. Do not grow lax on the practice of the faith because no one knows the hour of His return. And third and I think this is the most important point. He shows us that He has authority over all of human history. From this point forward our faith will hold us even when our present is crumbling around us. True disciples believe that future belongs to our Lord, and there is no thread, or fear or calamity that will keep us away from our eternal destiny which is to be lifted with him into heaven.
There might be turmoil in the world, maybe today we might be feeling that there are forces outside of our control that are threatening to destroy us. Today’s message is this: Hold onto the hope that one day, the good Lord will send his angels to collect us and take us to his glory. Wars and catastrophes might come and go but His words will never pass away.