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

1. Malachi 3, 19-20

  • The day is coming.  Twice I hear it.  It is that time again when we announce endings in the liturgy.  The earthly treasures we have built will be stubble.
  • I remember the wave upon stirring wave of “refiner’s fire” in Handel’s Messiah.  It comes from the same prophet we hear today. 
  • The prophecy promises consequences for our moral position.  Two of these are contrasted: All the proud and all evildoers.  Then, You who fear my name. 
  • I hear another contrast between, first, the blazing oven as it consumes all in its path and, then, the gradually warming sunlight.  The “Sunrise” movement of the Grand Canyon Suite comes to my mind, as we approach the sun of justice.  I will make the break between the two, and ask whether we are prepared for healing.
  • Neither root nor branch… That means an all-consuming blaze, such as we have just seen in the western states.
  • Let me feel the rhythm of the prophecy in my soul as I rehearse.  In the opening section there are quick outbursts such as accompany a firestorm.  In the final section, the flow of words is smooth and reassuring.
  • Climax: Says the Lord of hosts.  This gives the prophecy its authenticity.  I say it as if meditating over a blackened landscape.
  • Message for our assembly: Remember that this life is a way-station. 
  • I will challenge myself: To let loose with my strongest voice of foreboding.  I will look out without staring at anyone.  But do I notice anyone wiping their brows?

2. II Thessalonians 3, 7-12

  • Imitate us.  I hear it twice.  In other words: see how we have behaved among you.  The apostle does not suggest or command some external pattern, but appeals to the recollections and good will of the church.  I think that You know how is the most important phrase in the first sentence.
  • The apostle begins with negative examples.  Not disorderly, nor receiving freely, like certain members of the community that he will mention later. 
  • We worked.  And so everyone is expected to work quietly.  The word is repeated three times.  Common life is not so easy to live out in practice, after the first wave of enthusiasm wears off.  There will be toil and drudgery.
  • We have the right.  I remember that Jesus sent his disciples to the villages and told them to stay and eat with those who welcomed them.  So there was a precedent for living off the land, which in fact has been the usual manner for missionaries!  That means that the apostle is going beyond the call of duty.  I must watch the double negative, and leave my emphasis for those ending words.
  • We were with you, among you.  Not as a leader who jets into town and stays in VIP lodging for a few hours, but as a true apostle, spending quality time and rubbing shoulders with the people.
  • Central point: Christians are not to set out to burden each other, minding the business of others.
  • The message for our assembly: It is all right to carry each other’s burdens, but we should take care not to toss our burden on others deliberately.
  • I will challenge myself: To put myself in the apostle’s shoes, as he shows some appropriate behavior.  I remember that a new community is being formed, and that requires a different level of morality and responsibility.

Gospel. Luke 21, 5-19

  • When you hear of wars and insurrections.  I could adapt that to what we see on the boob tube or our computers.  But, honestly, our assembly can do no more than overhear these words of warning and consolation.  Who among us has been threatened with death for their faith?  What do we know? 
  • We have descended from “a cloud of witnesses” who indeed suffered inconveniences and even death to preserve the true faith.  Let me keep some of them in mind as I read.
  • The temple was adorned with costly stones.  Do we think of our own Vatican City when we hear this?  The eternal city indeed with its imposing role for so many believers!  Can we imagine someone saying that there will not be left a stone upon another stone?  Wouldn’t we lock them up?
  • Teacher, when will this happen?  We have relatives or acquaintances who ask this very question, paying close attention to apparent patterns and signs.  But Jesus teaches us: See that you not be deceived. 
  • And here are some associations that occur to me as I hear the words.  Many will come in my name (televangelists).  Wars and insurrections (talk of a coming Armageddon).  Famines and plagues (God’s “judgment” against illicit behavior). Awesome sights and mighty signs (“shock and awe”).  They will hand you over (secret renditions).
  • All this is happening because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony.  Now Jesus switches from negative advice to active prescriptions: I myself shall give you a wisdom.  Men and women in our own times have stood up boldly in eastern Europe, in Central and South America, throughout Africa and Mesopotamia, and paid with their lives.  More recently we honor Franz Jägerstätter and also the clergy and religious of wartime Spain. 
  • We file these events away in our remote memory, but Jesus does not sugar-coat our life of faith: See that you not be deceived.  
  • You will even be handed over  I’m sure that those whose writings have not been welcomed by church officials will identify with this reminder.  You will be hated by all because of my name. 
  • Central theme: the words of encouragement that permeate the passage.  Do not be terrified.  Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives. 
  • Message for our assembly: Adversity awaits us as believers.  Do we accept this?
  • I will challenge myself: To reach beyond the terrifying events of the end times, and uphold the directions Jesus gives us for living through them.

From Word to Eucharist: We are coming to the end of the church year.  Let us approach one another as we approach the table of the Eucharist, without our possessions or our pretensions, in an unbroken and simple line.

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