Friday: Thirty-fourth week in Ordinary Time

Today’s Scripture Readings

Revelations 20:1-4, 11-21:2, Psalm 84:3-6a, 8a, Luke 21:29-33

I am particularly attracted to the Psalm response for today, because it sums up where we are headed. “Here God lives among his people.” That is an outcome I find comforting because I think it not only refers, as the other readings today do, to our life with God after death but also to the life we live right now. I think the important part is to see the connection, the parallel between our life with God now and our ultimate home with God in the future.

There is nothing that I believe more strongly than that God lives among us right now in every moment of our lives and is available to us in a way that we don’t understand very well and therefore don’t fully appreciate nor respond to. These readings tell us something of what it takes to appreciate that presence.

Part of what we heard today is from the last of the visions of John in the Book of Revelation. As you know he is trying to tell us what will happen at the end of time. It is a mythic picture of what will be the culmination of God’s work. We often talk about the end of time as the time of judgment. It is that but that judgment in our reading today is a description of how all that is evil will be destroyed and all that is good will be rewarded. It is a story meant to take away our fears. Our fears of the devil, Satan, monsters, beasts, of all that is unknown. Even death itself is destroyed. The sea is no more because the sea represents all the forms of chaos in the world. Remember the flood in the Old Testament is how all of life is removed from the earth. So the sea stands for those great uncontrollable forces that ruin life on earth. This is a story of sweeping away all that harmed the people of God’s kingdom and made them fearful.

At the same time those who were faithful to Christ and lived a good life are brought into the kingdom to reign with Christ. Did you hear how judgment would be “according to their deeds?” Twice in a very short space John repeats this “according to their deeds” because that would have been a very radical idea. The norm of the time would have expected the wealthy and the powerful to be rewarded because of their position in society. To judge people by how they acted with each other was still a very new and radical idea.

Our reading of Revelation ends with the culmination of all God’s plans. A new heaven and new earth replace the old heaven and old earth. It is all new, without fear and full of love, just like a bride and groom, fresh, vibrant love that creates new life.

One of the things to notice is that there is a complete disconnect here between what was and what will come after. The old is destroyed and the new is brand new. Nothing is brought over from what was before except the people who have lived a good life and were already living as God asked them to live.

Perhaps in that disconnect is a message for us today. If this story of the culmination of God’s creation is told as a myth, then it is meant to tell us something of ourselves. Something of what will help create that new heaven and new earth in our own lives now. I think that something is our willingness to see our own fears and put them aside. To see the signs of the times, like Jesus’ fig tree and recognize it is time to move on. That all things change and we must be willing to make changes too. Each of us has different monsters and beasts that keep us from being as fully human and loving as we might be. Perhaps if we can let go of what we fear, what holds us, then we can more fully appreciate the deeper reality of our Psalm today, “Here God lives among his people.” The good overcomes evil, deeds can overcome fear. Today the book of Revelation and our Gospel said that’s what God wants for us.

Monday: Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s Scripture Readings

Revelation 1:1-4, 2:1-5, Psalm 1:1-4, 6, Luke 18:35-43

Well I suspect most of you recognize that we are close to the end of the liturgical Church year. Next Sunday is the celebration of Christ the King and then we start over with Advent. As the Church year comes to an end we hear all these stories about the end of the world and the dire signs that lead up to it. Today’s first reading is in this vein since it comes from the book of Revelation which talks almost exclusively about the end of time and the coming of Christ’s Kingdom.

My sense of today’s readings is that we will always need the help of God to see what we need to do. On our own we go astray but if we keep trying, God will reveal what we thought was hidden.

First of all, as I’m sure you know, the book of Revelation is not intended as prophesy about how the world will end. The writer uses a style known as apocalyptic to strengthen people who are afraid of what is going on at the moment and to encourage a certain way of living. In today’s language he’s trying to scare people straight. We are reading the very beginning of the book and the author is giving corrective instruction to one community of believers. The Ephesians have been steadfast in their faith and have avoided being led astray by false teachers but they have one crucial problem, they have lost the love they had at first. So John says they need to repent and do the works they used to do.

This is a great example of how we can get lost along the way. We start out with great intentions to do good and make the world a better place. But we get so caught up in the task before us that we lose the very thing that brought us to the work. We can’t afford to let the work overpower the love that prompts us in the first place. To accomplish what is truly important we have to stay focused on our source. A close, loving relationship with God only happens with persistence and trust.

This is where the story of the blind man of Jericho comes in. The blind man is the perfect example of persistence and trust. When he first calls out to Jesus for help the crowd tries to quiet him. His response is to call out all the louder so that Jesus will hear him. Once he is brought to Jesus, he is asked what he would like Jesus to do for him. Here again, he does not hesitate or go halfway. He says exactly what his need is, he wants to see. Jesus heals him because of his faith, his trust and persistence.

We need to be able to trust like that. To ask for what really needs healing. Too often, I believe, we are afraid to say what our deepest desire is because we don’t want to be disappointed. We’re afraid God isn’t going to be there for us and perhaps we’re afraid of what change might bring. Let us remember how throughout the Bible God responds to the poor, the outcast and the widow. At least part of the point of those stories is that when we need it most, when we feel lost, forgotten, abandoned that is when God is most likely to be there to lift us up, to heal what is broken in us and provide a lift that is likely to be surprising. Because we don’t always see the patterns we have adopted, the defenses we’ve built to protect what should be shared. In times when we recognize our own need, when we trust that God is the only real answer, that is the time we need to ask for exactly what is missing. To call out and know God will put us back in touch with what we need restoring our peace and the love that is most important to our life.

Memorial: St. Martin of Tours

Today’s Scripture Readings

2 John 4-9, Psalm 119: 1, 2, 10, 11, 17, 18, Luke 17: 26-37


I have commented before that the situation in which Christians find themselves today isn’t so different from the way things were in New Testament times. The simple reason is that the basics of human nature haven’t changed. What may be more important for us is we can be sure the ways of God haven’t changed either.

John’s second letter is to a community of Christians that is beginning to have doubts. They are beginning to wonder if belief in Jesus is important and whether the commandment to love each other is really the core of faithful living. Other preachers are raising questions and proposing other solutions to life’s challenges. John says they need to live a life of love based on a relationship with Jesus. If not, they will not have God’s message. They will lose what they had.

The Gospel is saying the same thing in more dramatic terms. Stay the course. Hold on to your faith because you never know when all of life may change. Luke puts this in catastrophic terms of floods and fire and brimstone. But the idea is that life and death is involved. I think it’s worthwhile to translate these images into everyday language. We may be tempted to take the physical images too literally and assume we are safe from tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, even though recent news reports ought to give us pause even on this account. Or to think that Jesus’ is just referring to the end of time or the end of our life.

In this case, the issue is, will all the other things of modern life, today’s progressive ideas, the comfort of our culture eat away at what believing in Jesus and Catholic faith have to offer. Has the course of our life given us an outlook that no longer matches Jesus’ call for a life of love?

I would suggest to you that one important consideration is would I recognize an invitation from God to change my life? Is it possible that while I was in the middle of my everyday life, eating, drinking, buying, selling … that I would recognize the moment when I needed to leave everything behind or lose my life? Could there be times that are that dramatic in my life? Perhaps the situation isn’t dramatic but what is subtle, perhaps what lies just below the surface, may have just as important a consequence.

What if we weren’t talking about moments of physical choice? What if it wasn’t about which job or what relationship or what to do tonight but about, as John’s letter says, how I was walking through my own life? What if I was confronted with a challenge to my current ideas or attitudes? Might I have to change how I think in order to save my life, to stay faithful to the Gospel?

Perhaps the terrifying drama of the Gospel is about how frightening it can be to make significant choices in everyday life? Can I see God’s presence in the challenges to my ideas or the way I am walking through my life?

When the Apostles ask “Where?” they are acting as if the dangers to faith are out there beyond themselves in some physical place or location. But Jesus’ answer suggestions that the challenges to belief, the vultures, are wherever we are. The challenge to life is within ourselves. We need to remember that is also where God is. That is why it is so important to walk through all of life holding on to our faith in God and God’s love. So that when the moment to decide comes, dramatic or subtle, it will be clear what we need to hold on to and what we need to let go of.