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Ordinary Time 33 (B)
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Readings for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1. Daniel 12, 1-3

  • It begins slowly, and that gives me more time than usual to set a mood.  In those days I, Daniel, heard this word of the Lord.  Let me study the possible moods.
  • There shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people.  What will I do with this?  What does it mean?  I think the key word is ‘guardian.’  If he is to be our guardian, I would be very glad to hear him approaching.  And if he is going to be on hand, I think that we can handle the hardships that are coming.  Think of a parent, an uncle, some figure of authority whose word is always their bond and who has always kept us out of trouble.
  • The rest of the short passage sounds apocalyptic.  It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress.  Do I want to scare my listeners?  A lot of preachers have done this, and they certainly have the material to support their motivation.  I want my listeners to sit up and take notice.  But let me remember that Michael is around!
  • At that time your people shall escape.  Israel in the time of Daniel was a punching bag subjected to the greater empires around it.  These are the ‘people’ of the visionary.  I live today, as do my listeners, in the one world power that remains.  I read and hear each day of ‘distress’ in which our power is involved.  Who, then, shall escape in our time? – as I see it, those of us who identify ourselves with the marginalized and vulnerable people of Daniel.
  • Everyone who is found written in the book.  There are many such lists of names today, kept by intelligence and police agencies of every country.  Honestly, I don’t want to be on any of those lists.  None of us here today ever made trouble for anyone.  We want to hide in our anonymity.  But the book Daniel means is different.  We believe that Jesus is at its top.  What have I done lately that gives me that kind of notoriety?  Do I seek it?  Do those in the assembly seek it?  Would the others ‘in the book’ recognize us as worthy members?
  • Many shall awakesome shall live forever.  Others shall be an everlasting horror.  In this scripture we pass beyond the age we know too well into an eternity of full transparency.  I must help my listeners draw the line and find where they are on either side.
  • Central point: The faithful ones will come out of the tribulations all right.
  • Message for our assembly: Do we truly believe that another world is coming?
  • I will challenge myself: To do all I can to remind the assembly of its calling to learn wisdom and prepare in mature ways for the coming days.

 

2. Hebrews 10, 11-14 and 18

  • Every priest stands daily at his ministry.  How can I help the assembly make sense of this, two thousand years after temple sacrifices ended?  No, santerķa does not count!  I intend to read this short passage in the light of Christ, who we believe has replaced the temple.
  • Those same sacrifices that can never take away sinsone sacrifice for sins.  I speak with a contrast between the atonement sacrifices of the law and the blood of Christ that did not stain the ground in vain.  And I repeat a theme that we have heard in previous weeks.
  • This one took his seat forever at the right hand of God.  The reading does not name ‘Christ,’ but as I read the words ‘this one’ I will make that clear to all.
  • Where there is forgiveness for these – there is no longer offering for sin.  The way I read will help everyone understand.  ‘These’ means all of us, and my gaze across the assembly will bring that home.  The main clause means that there is no need or reason or point in an offering for sin.  ‘Is’ is equivalent to ‘exists.’
  • Climax: He has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.  As I read, I think of the final touch that was missing before Christ.  We could not get over that last hurdle – no, not even the first one – but we have been brought before the holy place and may presume to call on God again. 
  • The message for our assembly: Jesus’ work is accomplished, and now everything is possible for us.
  • I will challenge myself: To speak again with the finality that the author intended.  And to find a homespun speaking style that will lead the congregation into a spirited response of thanks and praise.  Yes, Alleluia comes next.

 

Gospel. Mark 13, 24-32

  • In those days after that tribulation.  I am certainly dropped into the midst of the story!  The first reading spoke about tribulation.  Let me continue in that same vein.  For some who listen, the words will be terrifying, especially if they really believe that a government or an army can protect them.  For those who believe, though, who do not put their trust in the movement of human events, this is the moment for which they have lived their lives.  Am I one of those?  Can I find that uncompromising Christian in me that can speak out in confidence and conviction?
  • The sun will darken and the moon will not give its light.  The language is apocalyptic.  Our faith is eschatological, because we do not hope for a final resolution in this place and on these terms.  The way we tell the story differs from the credulous fantasy manipulations of Left Behind.  The powers in the heavens will be shaken.  All that we think we know – and trust – about cycles, progressions and generations will be changed.  I have to let God tell the story, but all that comes out is the negation of our daily experience. 
  • They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds.  In my voice it may be a glorious return, but the Christ I describe must remain the servant he always was. 
  • When you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  Everything we experience in our lives (like the return of blossoms and summer) is supposed to prepare us to know Christ when he comes again.  That is what our assembly believes.  Once again I need to speak with the same conviction that he would have said it.
  • But of that day or hour, no one knows.  Let me end by reminding everyone, at a slower pace, of this caution.  I do not read a romance but a testimony of faith.
  • Climax: He will gather his elect from the four winds.  Israel also believes fervently that all its children will return home before the last day.  We believe that the reunion miracle of Pentecost was a small foretaste of the final time.
  • Message for our assembly: Will we hear of destruction today or reunion?  Do we plan for this more carefully than we plan for our golden waning years on earth?
  • I will challenge myself: To practice so that I avoid the bombast of a fire show.

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