Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

last_judgementHe will gather his elect from the four winds”

Opening Prayer

Prayer for Renewal

Glory to you, O Lord our God, Your love calls us to be your people. By sharing our many and diverse gifts we share in your mission. We ask you, Lord, to shape us into a community of faith. Nourish us by your word and sacraments that we may grow into the image of Jesus. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, heal us that we, in turn, may heal the wounded. Form us to be instruments of love, justice, and peace in our land, and send us to proclaim your saving work.

RENEW us, Lord, that we may renew the face of the earth, and when you do come to claim your people, we may gain the eternal merit won by Christ.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1650

Collect

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God,

the constant gladness of being devoted to you,

for it is full and lasting happiness

to serve with constancy

the author of all that is good.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Reading I

Dn 12:1-3

In those days, I Daniel,

heard this word of the Lord:

“At that time there shall arise

Michael, the great prince,

guardian of your people;

it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress

since nations began until that time.

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;

some shall live forever,

others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.

“But the wise shall shine brightly

like the splendor of the firmament,

and those who lead the many to justice

shall be like the stars forever.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 992 God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body. The creator of heaven and earth is also the one who faithfully maintains his covenant with Abraham and his posterity. It was in this double perspective that faith in the resurrection came to be expressed. In their trials, the Maccabean martyrs confessed:

The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.1 One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.2

CCC 998 Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”3

1 2 Macc 7:9.

2 2 Macc 7:14; cf. 7:29; Dan 12:1-13.

3 Jn 5:29; cf. Dan 12:2.

Application

The Church begins and ends her liturgical year with lessons that remind us of our end and the end of the world. In the new liturgical arrangement, the Feast of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday of the year and therefore the Church places the reminder of death, judgement and resurrection on this the penultimate Sunday. Today’s reading from the Book of Daniel puts before our eyes the fact that this world will have an end marked by great upheavals and disasters. However, these will be followed immediately by a new and everlasting existence. This new life will be one of unending joy and happiness for those who are found worthy. For the others who did not think of it or prepare for it, it will be a life of unending shame and sorrow.

Here, surely, we have a solemn reminder of what is ahead of us and of what we ought to do about it. Every businessman worthy of the name annually takes a serious look at his business affairs to see how he stands. If he finds that all is going well he resolves to continue or to improve things if improvement is possible. If his business is going down, he will search for the causes of this decline and resolve to do all in his power to check the defects that are causing the decline. Today, we are all called on to make this stock-taking of our progress or decline. Our duty to have this stock-taking is of infinitely greater importance than that of the businessman. If his business fails it is not the end of him, he can find other ways of making a living. He has other options open to him. If we fail to be prepared for heaven, we have no second chance, our failure is final and for all eternity.

This is a thought that should make us stop and think. We have one life only on earth—a life of a few short years. Our real life, the eternal life of happiness or misery depends on how we spend these years on earth. We can waste them and arrive empty-handed at the end of our journey, or we can spend them well and hear the welcome words: “Come you blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you,” when we die. To which class would we like to belong when our end on earth comes? The choice and the answer is entirely in our hands, no one can make this decision for us. Our dearest and nearest will be helpless in this regard. Generously and gladly God will help us but we must cooperate with that help. In baptism he has already given us our passport to heaven. Each day in the sacraments and prayers of his Church he is offering us the necessary travel expenses. Again and again through his ministers he advises us to stay on the right road, but all in vain if we refuse to accept these gifts.

The rules of the road to heaven, the regulations which God asks us to keep, are not severe sacrifices or tasks beyond our power to fulfill. His ten commandments are not impossible or unreasonable restrictions, but rather rules which make life on earth civilized and happy. Where they are observed we have peace and harmony between neighbors and nations. Where the Fatherhood of God is revered and kept in mind, the brotherhood of man is recognized and his rights respected, there is true fraternity on earth. Somebody has said that if God did not exist it would be necessary for us to invent him–if life on earth was to be livable. But he does exist and in his goodness and mercy he has made life on earth livable and reasonably enjoyable–by laying down the sound rules which should govern our lives as rational creatures.

God is not a tyrant who will take pleasure in punishing those who ignore him and his laws. Rather is he a loving Father who wants all his children to share his eternal happiness. Therefore, his laws are not imposed on us as restrictions and burdens but as helps to guide us safely to our eternal home.

Today’s lesson from Daniel is one of God’s ways of reminding the forgetful ones of him and their own eternal destiny. Let them wake up and take stock of how they stand in relation to God; are they on the right road or are they wandering in the wilderness from whence they may never return?

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,

you it is who hold fast my lot.

I set the LORD ever before me;

with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,

my body, too, abides in confidence;

because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,

nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

You will show me the path to life,

fullness of joys in your presence,

the delights at your right hand forever.

You are my inheritance, O Lord!

Reading II

Heb 10:11-14, 18

Brothers and sisters:

Every priest stands daily at his ministry,

offering frequently those same sacrifices

that can never take away sins.

But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,

and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;

now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.

For by one offering

he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.

Where there is forgiveness of these,

there is no longer offering for sin.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”1 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;2 “holy, blameless, unstained,”3 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”4 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

1 2 Tim 2:5.

2 Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18.

3 Heb 7:26.

4 Heb 10:14.

Application

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” This prayer, which the priest says when mixing a drop of water with the wine in the chalice at the offertory of the Mass, gives in a nutshell the profound meaning that the incarnation of Christ has for us. The drop of water is our human nature; it is absorbed in the wine–the divine infinity; and it shares in the incredible glory of becoming the precious blood of Christ. When the Son of God took our human nature, he made us capable of becoming sharers in the eternal glory, and happiness of the Infinite God.

If only we could fully realize what the loving God has done for us through the sending of his Son to “dwell among us,” we would never stop praising, thanking and loving him. We are mere creatures, higher than all the other creatures on this earth because of the extra gifts he gave us–but still mere creatures–nothing in comparison with the omnipotent and infinite God. Out of an infinite goodness which our minds cannot even begin to grasp, he raised us up to the status of adopted children. He had no need of us, he did not require our company or our adoration, he is infinitely perfect and happy in himself. Yet, out of sheer benevolence he wished to confer on us a gift which we are to value and appreciate with our intelligence and freewill–but a gift which we could never even dream of expecting.

To give us the gift the incarnation took place: “the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Christ became our brother; we became, through him, adopted sons of God and therefore heirs to heaven. The sins of mankind which had corrupted the world brought about the death of Christ on the cross–“a death he freely accepted.” Through that death and as our representative and senior brother, he made a perfect atonement to God the Father for all our sins. His triumph over sin and death was our triumph; ever since his ascension, the incarnate Son of God is in the seat of glory in heaven, interceding for us sinners; he is preparing a place for us, his brothers, which will be ours when life on this earth ends.

Therefore, there is no comparison, as the epistle to the Hebrews stresses, between the intercession that the Levitical priesthood could make for the Chosen People of the Old Testament, and the intercession that Christ has made and continues to make for us. The sacrifices they offered were but shadows and symbols of the real sacrifice offered by Christ. Any value which they had derived from the true sacrifice which was to come. The members of the Chosen People who did God’s will earned heaven through the merits of Christ and only after his ascension. Because of God’s loving generosity these infinite merits of Christ were applied to all Jews and Gentiles, who, before Christ, lived according to their lights. They will be applied to all who have lived since his incarnation, provided they act according to the revealed or the natural knowledge of God which is given them.

We know this and our gratitude to God should be boundless. The years left to us on earth are long enough to enable us to earn eternity. Those who have weaknesses, temptations and trials must never forget that they are not on their own; they are not left to fend for themselves, they have Christ, their brother, in heaven pleading with the Father of mercies on their behalf. With such an advocate, with such a defending counsel, we cannot lose our inheritance, provided we do our best to be true and loyal to him. God grant that we shall never be among the ungrateful ones but rather that we may willingly and gladly cooperate with God to earn the eternal merit won by Christ.

Gospel

Mk 13:24-32

Jesus said to his disciples:

“In those days after that tribulation

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from the sky,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’

with great power and glory,

and then he will send out the angels

and gather his elect from the four winds,

from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.

When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,

you know that summer is near.

In the same way, when you see these things happening,

know that he is near, at the gates.

Amen, I say to you,

this generation will not pass away

until all these things have taken place.

Heaven and earth will pass away,

but my words will not pass away.

“But of that day or hour, no one knows,

neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal.1 What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.2

CCC 673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,3 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”4. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.5

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”6 He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.7 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.8

1 Cf. Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; 14:18-20, 26-30.

2 Cf. Mk 13:32, Acts 1:7.

3 Cf. Rev 22:20.

4 Acts 1:7; Cf. Mk 13:32.

5 Cf. Mt 24:44; I Th 5:2; 2 Th 2:3-12.

6 Mk 1:15.

7 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.

8 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.

Application

There are some obscurities in this extract from St. Mark. Firstly, because Christ was discussing and answering questions on two distinct topics: the destruction of the temple and the end of the world. Secondly, because we may not have the “ipsissima verba” of Christ here, as many exegetes suggest. The message we must learn from today’s gospel comes across without any ambiguity or doubt: we must always be ready to face our judgement for we know not the day nor the hour when we will be called from this life. When or how this world will end is of no great importance to us; what is important is that we shall leave this world very soon and our eternity will depend on the state of our consciences at the moment of our departure.

This is the steadying thought the Church, in her wisdom, wishes to put before our minds today. We all know that we must die someday. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth; we have not here a lasting city, as St. Augustine says. No sane person among us will try to deny this and yet, many of us are so immersed in the things of this world that we forget or try to forget that we must leave this world soon. This is very natural: life is a precious gift and as our earthly life is the only one of which we have experience our every inclination is to hold on to it at all costs. Even when our intelligence tells us that it can, in spite of all our endeavors, end very soon we try to convince ourselves that that “very soon” is really in the distant future.

We have God’s word for it and the example of Christ’s resurrection to a life of glory. Let us appreciate the truth that our death on earth is not the end of life but rather the beginning of the true life that will never end. As the liturgy says in the Mass for the Dead: “Life is changed (by death) not taken away.” Our death is the doorway through which we pass into the unending life. The years on earth are a gift of God to enable us to earn the infinitely greater gift which in his loving mercy he has prepared for us from all eternity.

God in his mercy is calling on each one of us to be ready when our call comes. We can do nothing about the when or the where of that call, but we can do much about the state of our relationship with God when death comes; in fact, aided by God’s grace we can ensure that all will be well with us. We cannot avoid a sudden death, but we can avoid an unprepared death by striving always to live in peace with God. This does not mean that we must be always on our knees praying to God and that we must take no interest in the things and the joys of this world. Far from it. God wants us to use the things of this world, but to use them so that they will not hinder us on our journey.

A very practical way to see how we stand in relation to God and to the things of this world, is for each one of us to ask himself today: “How would I fare if I were called to render an account of stewardship tonight?” This is the practical question that God, through today’s readings, is asking us to put to ourselves. If, to our dismay, we find there are several things which have to be put right before facing our judge we will start right away to put them right. We may get another chance, another warning, and we may not. If we value our eternal happiness we will take this warning; we will put our books in order; we will make peace with God and our neighbors–and with God’s grace we will do all in our power to persevere in this good resolution.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission by Franciscan Press

Benedictus

Judgement and Hope

It is not simply – as one might expect – God, the infinite, the unknown, the eternal, who judges. On the contrary, he has handed the judgement over to one who, as man, is our brother. It is not a stranger who judges us but he whom we know in faith. The judge will not advance to meet us as the other, but as one of us, who knows human existence from inside and has suffered. Thus over the judgment glows the dawn of hope; it is not only the day of wrath but also the second coming of our Lord. One is reminded of the mighty vision of Christ with which the Book of Revelation begins (1: 9-19): the seer sinks down as though dead before this being full of sinister power. But the Lord lays his hand on him and says to him as once in the days when they were crossing the Lake of Gennesaret in wind and storm: “Fear not, it is I” (1: 17). The Lord of all power is the Jesus whose comrade the visionary had once been in faith. The Creed’s article about the judgment transfers this very idea to our meeting with the judge of the world. On that day of fear the Christian will be allowed to see in happy wonder that he “to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28: 18) was the companion in faith of his days on earth, and it is as if through the words of the Creed Jesus were already laying his hands on him and saying: Be without fear, it is I. Perhaps the problem of the intertwining of justice and mercy can be answered in no more beautiful way than that it is the idea that stands in the background of our Creed.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Closing Prayer

The Prayer, Majestic Queen of Heaven

Majestic Queen of Heaven and Mistress of the Angels, thou didst receive from God the power and commission to crush the head of Satan; wherefore we humbly beseech thee, send forth the legions of heaven, that, under thy command, they may seek out all evil spirits, engage them everywhere in battle, curb their insolence, and hurl them back into the pit of hell. “Who is like unto God?”

O good and tender Mother, thou shalt ever be our hope and the object of our love.

O Mother of God, send forth the holy Angels to defend me and drive far from me the cruel foe.

Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1995

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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