33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

1st Reading – Daniel 12: 1-3

The book of Daniel is apocalyptic, the 4th of the major prophets.  It is filled with dreams and visions that reveal coming events.  This kind of writing is called a vaticinium ex eventu, a “prediction after the fact,” in which an author creates a character of long ago (Daniel) and puts into his mouth as predictions all the important events that have already happened right up to the author’s own time and place (about 165 BC).  It is actually written by an unknown person.  Antiochus Epiphanes of the Seleucid empire in Syria ruled of Palestine around 175 BC.  He stripped the temple twice of its wealth to fund military campaigns.  To encourage unity, he demanded Hellenization (follow the Greek ways) which devastated the Jewish people.  A small revolt in 167 began a constant struggle for religious freedom and political independence (not much new for that area!).  So all of this colors what Daniel is trying to say (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 503-509).

Apocalyptic writing usually has these elements:

  1. Famous names
  2. Secretive
  3. Symbolic
  4. Prophetic prediction
  5. Anonymous
  6. Pessimistic
  7. Dualistic
  8. Deterministic
  9. Confidence in divine intervention
  10. Cosmic viewpoint
  11. Use of intermediary beings such as angels and demons
  12. Old prophecies being fulfilled
  13. Hope in the resurrection of the dead
  14. Hope in a glorious new kingdom in heaven or on earth (p. 513-514)

The words, “At that time” are repeated in this passage.  The emphasis it gives should not be overlooked.  It is calling everyone to the present…right now.  What happens right in this moment makes a difference.  Your life can change for better or worse in an instant.  How does this emphasis on NOW matter to you?

A word on the angel Michael:  He was thought to have fought and defeated Lucifer.  His name means, “Who is like God?”.  All angels of God’s own active presence in our world.  Whereas men and women have bodies and souls, angels are pure spirits.  They were created before humankind, and they are capable of sin (Catholicism for Dummies, p. 306).   Some are sent to guard over people.  Have you felt like you had a guardian angel in times of distress?

2nd Reading – Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18

From Roland Faley, Footprints on the Mountain:  The standing posture of the priests in their endless work contrasts with the seated posture of Jesus whose work has been realized.  The sitting position, symbolizing work accomplished, is not at odds with the high priest image which depicts Christ as continually offering his one sacrifice in the eternal ‘now’.  The two are complementary, not exclusive.  Christ’s one sacrifice continues to make holy those who appropriate its benefits.  With sin now forgiven and ready access to God assured, no further sacrifice is needed.  Isn’t this good news?

Every day at Temple, morning and evening, the priests would offer a burnt offering of a 1 year old lamb without blemish, a meat offering of flour and oil, a drink offering of wine, and incense.  Did they make a difference?  What Jesus offered as himself could not be repeated.  He offered his whole self as living sacrifice (Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series, p. 117).  How do we offer ourselves daily?    

The Gospel — Mark 13: 24-32:

From John Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, B, 164:

Mark’s Jesus is absolutely convinced that everything he has announced will occur during the lifetime of his audience.  Jesus died around 30CE and the temple was destroyed in 70CE.  These were certainly difficult, frightening, changing times.  The audience needs certainty that better times are ahead  (so do we!).  They need something to count on.  By saying ”Amen, I say to you…” it guarantees the truth of what one says.  Jesus is saying, “Trust me!  I speak the truth and won’t fail you no matter what!”  This is more good news.

The cosmic events (sun darkening, stars falling) are entirely and exclusively under God’s control.  How does it feel to allow God to take the wheel completely?

From Mary Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 726, 730-731:

The ‘fig tree’ had been a common symbol for Israel.  Jesus uses this idea and then changes it to become a symbol of the new kingdom of God.  Here in Mark 13 the fig tree is blossoming as opposed to its withering in Mark 11.  For these early Christians, as followers of Christ, the religious world that they knew was over.  They can no longer be centered around the Temple. Jesus’ new kingdom of God’s love was and is ready to emerge.  Jesus’ words do not pass away; through Jesus, the Word of God, and his cross, the powers of domination will be defeated.  Mark calls all disciples “to live in history with eyes open, to look deep into present events.”  The fig tree that seemed dead will be blossoming again. The old world, centered around the Temple, was coming to an end, but Jesus’ new world was emerging.  It still is.

The trick to understanding these readings is to not to reduce them to an historical period. We must let them speak to every historical time and place – even our own. After all, the end times happen to us all, individually at our death and communally as a generation that passes into the midst of disappearing ages . . . As our projects and pretenses mount, as our labors and tasks surround us, as our entertainment and doodling pass the time . . . we may forget that the upshot of our lives is to love and evoke love, no matter where we may be–living and dying. (John Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered”http://liturgy.slu.edu.)

From Ronald Rolheiser, “In Exile,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. :

Perhaps Jesus is not so much talking about cosmic cataclysms as cataclysms of the heart. Sometimes it is our inner world that is shaken, turned upside down, and darkened. But in this upheaval, only one thing that remains: God’s Word of love and fidelity. When our world is shaken, we have the chance to see more clearly, to grow more authentically, to love more unselfishly. Honeymoons are wonderful, but we do need to love what is real what is beyond the pleasant.  God’s love leads us to reality, to bedrock, to truth beyond illusion.   Jesus is NEAR, he is at the gates, his words stay with us.

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3 responses

  1. Do you hve manuscript evidence for discounting Daniel’s writing? Fascinating read.

    1. The source is indicated in the commentary if you wanted to read further. I interpreted it not as discounting Daniel but just putting it in context. Thanks for the comment!

      1. Opps! Guess I skimmed over the source…thanks!

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