32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) 2 Macc 7:1-2, 9-14/Ps 16/2 Thess 2:16-3:5/Lk 20: 27-38
My Dear Friends in Christ,
There is an interesting juxtaposition that today’s liturgy presents us with. In the first reading, we see Jews who were able to embrace death in the face of very cruel persecution, because of their belief in the resurrection, while we see the Sadducees in the gospel, who not only do not believe in the resurrection, and teach others to disbelieve it, they also make mockery of it.
Jesus’ response to the hypothetical story put forward by the Sadducees is instructive, and indeed it is the key to a deeper understanding of the reality of the resurrection. If we think of the resurrection in human terms and categories, we may fall into the same error as the Sadducees. Jesus tells them that their idea of heaven is mistaken, as it is not merely a continuation of our present human existence, but something wholly different.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church articulates the doctrine succinctly.
Jesus links faith in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the life.”It is Jesus himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in him, who have eaten his body and drunk his blood. Already now in this present life he gives a sign and pledge of this by restoring some of the dead to life, announcing thereby his own Resurrection, though it was to be of another order. He speaks of this unique event as the “sign of Jonah,” the sign of the temple: he announces that he will be put to death but rise thereafter on the third day. (CCC, 994)
Just like the Sadducees could not comprehend it, the early Christians had a battle in convincing their listeners about the resurrection. But it is a key aspect of our Christian doctrine, as Paul states: “If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor. 15:13–18). This belief was so strong in the hearts of the early Christians, and spurred them to achieve great things for God, in much the same way as it helped the sons in today’s first reading. And it should be the same with us. Our belief in the resurrection should help us live better Christian lives, since we know that how well we live here will determine whether we will rise to newness of life with Jesus, the Lord of the resurrection, or not.
33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Mal 3:19-20/Ps 97/2 Thess 3:7-12/Lk 21: 5-19
My Dear Friends in Christ,
If there is an adjective that can describe today’s gospel reading, then it is ‘scary’. Jesus talks about the signs that will point out the end of the world, the great day of the Lord. But Jesus did not talk about it in such manner to scare his disciples, but to them to be prepared for it, such that the day will not come like a thief in the night, and meet them in a bad state for an event as momentous as the end of the world.
In the course of telling his disciples to prepare for this day, Jesus also seizes the occasion to warn his disciples about the sort of preoccupation with the precise date of that day that makes people gullible to false prophets claiming to have this information. Indeed, there have been many instances in the past of prophets, and ‘men of God’, who have predicted the date for the second coming of Jesus. Some of such predictions have been so dramatic, that many persons, swayed by them, sold their possessions, in expectation for that day (which is still to come). Sadly, some of such false prophets even tried to force the issue, and orchestrated the demise of their followers on the said day.
But the fact is that we should not be so preoccupied with ‘when’ that day will be, as with ‘how’ that day will meet us or ‘where’ that day will meet us. If we take care of the ‘how’ and possibly the ‘where’, then we will gradually begin to eradicate that paralyzing fear of the unknown. It is like students preparing for a test, after being told by their teacher that the date and time of the test would not be preannounced. They will soon discover that the more they study the subject in question, the less they will dread the day of the test. In fact, they will soon be so prepared that they may begin asking for the test from the teacher, if he/she unduly delays. In our case, this will mean paying close attention to how we live our lives, and trying our best to live as well as we possibly can, in accordance with God’s commandments.
Today, in different dioceses all over the world, there will be ceremonies to mark the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. It has been a period of grace and blessing, and a privileged moment to deepen our appreciation of the mercy of God. The fruits of this Jubilee year will continually be with us, and if nothing else, they will surely help us to face the great day of the Lord without fear.
CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL KING 2 Sam 5: 1-3/Ps 121/Col 1:12-20/Lk 23: 35-43
My Dear Friends in Christ,
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the Universal King, on the last Sunday of the liturgical year. When Jesus was born, the word of God tells us that three wise men came to pay Him homage, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, with the gold referring to His kingship. (Matt 2: 1-12). Gold is a typical gift meant for a King, as they would have known from their earthly kings that they encountered. But that is where the similarity ends (if there was really any similarity in the first instance with earthy kingship), as the scenario in today’s gospel reading, at the scene of the crucifixion, is in complete dissonance with any typical earthly kingship.
Jesus always made it clear that his kingdom is counter to human expectations, and not of this world. he told Pilate as much, when the latter asked him if he was the king of the Jews (Jn 18: 36-37). The Messianic secrecy that surrounded his public ministry, was largely because he did not want them to get the wrong impression of his Kingship. That is why he refused to be crowned king after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves in John 6, and forbade his ‘inner caucus’ from disclosing what they saw after the transfiguration (Matthew 17:9), among other episodes.
Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that is found in the hearts of men, and eternal kingdom that cuts across nations, peoples, galaxies. We are born into the Kingdom of Jesus with our baptismal rebirth, as that is when with faith we accept the demands of the Kingdom of Jesus, and we live according to the kingdom attitudes, especially the demand of love of God and love of neighbour.
And a key defining feature of true membership of this kingdom, is the acceptance of the cross. It is interesting that our gospel reading on such a great feast, is the one that we may consider more suitable to Good Friday. But this is actually the implication of what we said earlier about accepting the demand of love of God and neighbour when we become children of the Kingdom. The cross is a symbol of the sort of sacrificial love that Jesus calls us to have and to practice with one another. How far can you go in showing love for your neighbour? (Remember, greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends…John 15: 13).
In a world that celebrates and exalts selfishness and individualism, detrimental though these are, we need persons who will be willing to swim against the tide and live contrary to what the world lays down as the standard. Who best to do this than you and me, Christians, followers of Jesus the universal king?
1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR A) Is 2:1-5/Ps 121/Rm 13:11-14/Matt 24: 37-44
My Dear Friends in Christ,
Each year, around either the last Sunday of November or the first Sunday of December, we commence the season of Advent. Advent is a season of four Sundays, which serve to help us prepare for the commemoration of the birth of Christ, that event through which God demonstrated in a definitive way, His love for mankind, by giving us His only begotten Son to become like us.
This is a very sacred season, and the liturgical indicators serve to underscore this fact, like the use of the colour violet, and the fact that the Gloria is not sung during mass. The season has two important elements that we have to reflect on, on this first Sunday of Advent.
Firstly, we must recall that today marks the beginning of the liturgical year. In other words, the season of Advent signifies a new beginning, and every new beginning means an opportunity to start all over again, to evaluate the ways we have been living, jettison the negative aspects, work on our strengths and generally work towards becoming better. This is important because if we didn’t have such opportunities that jolt us into action and into reviewing the way we do things, then we can easily become habitual Christians, going with the flow, going with the tide, gradually becoming lukewarm, which will not be to our advantage. Our Christianity becomes quite mechanical, and our prayers and even the liturgy will soon have no force or freshness to us.
Advent comes in then to help us change the course, and introduce some much needed positive dynamism into our lives. This dynamism cannot be overemphasized, especially when we consider the second element of the Advent season. Advent prepares us specially for the second coming of Christ, a time that according to Jesus himself in Luke 17: 20, will take all unawares. This is why during this season, we will constantly encounter the concept of vigilance.
Vigilance denotes alertness, a mindset that ensures that everything is functioning optimally for the coming of the Master. Advent season challenges us to critically examine every facet of our existence, to make sure that it is functioning in the manner Jesus wants it to be. In the words of today’s gospel, we are enjoined to stay awake. Advent may just be the alarm clock that jolts us all from our slumber, and moves us to take seriously our spiritual lives.