The Week of Nov. 19-24, 2018

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Revelation 1:1-4;2:1-5  +  Luke 18:35-43
November 19, 2018

When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

Today we begin hearing at weekday Mass from the Book of Revelation.  We will continue to hear from this book through the last day of the Church year.  This is fitting since Revelation is the last book of the Bible, and treats of the “Last Things”, although in a highly mysterious manner.

The Book of Revelation is literally the book of the “revelation of Jesus Christ” to the Beloved Disciple.  In turn, this same Saint John “gives witness to the word of God”, the same Word of God of whom John wrote in the prologue of his Gospel account.  Given the mysterious manner in which the Book of Revelation is recorded, the link between these two books of the New Testament is important to keep in mind as one reflects on John’s “witness to the word of God”.

Also, the evangelist calls this witness a “prophetic message”.  As such, we note a correspondence between the structure of the Old and New Testaments.  In each Testament, there are four types of books.  In both testaments, the fourth type of book is prophetic.  The Old Testament contains eighteen books of prophecy, but the New Testament contains only the Book of Revelation.  All books of prophecy look to the future:  those in the Old Testament to the first coming of God’s Word made Flesh, but the Book of Revelation to His Second Coming, as well as to His becoming Flesh and dwelling among us in the Holy Eucharist.

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Revelation 3:1-6,14-22  +  Luke 19:1-10
November 20, 2018

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Zacchaeus is a rich collector of taxes.  Each of us, like him, is attached to worldly things.  Zacchaeus, like you, wants to see who Jesus is.  But Zacchaeus has two strikes against him.

The first strike against Zacchaeus is the crowd, because everyone wants to see Jesus.  It’s easy to get lost and not to be loved in the crowd.  One might ask himself, “How can Jesus love everyone?”

The second strike against Zacchaeus is his small size, which may represent the size of our souls.  One might feel unworthy of God’s love, and ask himself, “How could Jesus love little old me?”

So Zacchaeus climbs up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus.  This is all Zacchaeus wants:  to see Jesus.  But that’s not enough for Jesus.

Here’s the turning point in this Gospel passage.  When Jesus reached the place where Zacchaeus had climbed the tree, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly; for today I must stay at your house.”  Jesus takes the initiative to reach out to this individual.  Likewise, just as He reached out to this little sinner, He is trying to reach into your life.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Revelation 4:1-11  +  Luke 19:11-28
November 21, 2018

After He had said this, He proceeded on His journey up to Jerusalem.

Those who think of Jesus as a “teddy bear” are challenged by the last words of Jesus in today’s Gospel Passage.  These concluding words—“…as for those enemies of mine… bring them here and slay them before me”—conclude the parable which the evangelist prefaces by explaining Jesus’ motive:  He “proceeded to tell a parable because He was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately.”

The “king” speaks and acts harshly.  He refers to himself as “a demanding man”, but his greatest demand comes at the end of the parable.  Of his enemies he declares, “bring them here and slay them before me.”  The question we have to grapple with is this:  to whom does this character in the parable refer in real life?  Can he possibly symbolize Jesus or God the Father?  The king’s demand is reminiscent of practices found in the Old Testament.  God Himself seems there to demand the murder of innocents.  Surely such ideas have no place in the teaching of Jesus?

However, the parable’s own inner logic suggests that the servants did have a choice.  This points to the choice that each servant of God has to follow Him or not.  At the end of each person’s life is a fork.  One branch leads to eternal life and the other to eternal death.  This is where the Kingdom of God comes to its fulfillment.

St. Cecilia, Virgin & Martyr
Revelation 5:1-10  +  Luke 19:41-44
November 22, 2018

“Worthy are you to receive the scroll / and break open its seals….”

Today’s passage from Revelation focuses on Jesus Christ.  Yet it also teaches us something important about His Bride, the Church.  The entire Book of Revelation is not only profoundly Christo-centric, but also centered on the Church, because the whole book has a spousal message.

In today’s passage we hear of “a scroll in the right hand of the one who sat on the throne”.  It’s fair to say that the one on the throne is God the Father, seated in His majesty.  The scroll is the Good News of His Son.  We might even say that this scroll is the Gospel.

But this scroll is sealed seven times over.  A mighty angel rhetorically asks, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  The answer is the “lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David”.  These two metaphors represent Jesus Christ in regard to His earthly authority, suggesting that only Jesus Himself can authoritatively reveal Himself to others.

Then the Lamb who is slain is seen.  This image of Christ crucified shows us that it’s through the Cross that Jesus reveals who He is to others.  The Crucifixion of the Word made Flesh is the “glory” which St. John’s account of the Gospel builds up to.

The end of today’s passage speaks of those for whom the Lamb was slain.  We hear the Church’s leaders singing “a new hymn”, during which they cry out to the Lamb:  “with your Blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation.”  This is the universal Church who is the spouse of the Bridegroom who gave His life on Calvary.

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time [II]
Revelation 10:8-11  +  Luke 19:45-48
November 23, 2018

“…but you have made it a den of thieves.”

The Temple was the holiest place in the entire world for Jews of Jesus’ day.  Catholics have a very different sense of God’s Presence in the world because of the abundance of God’s graciousness in the New Covenant.  But use your imagination to picture a world where every Catholic church in the world has been destroyed except one.  Every priest in the world except one has died.  There is only one tabernacle in the entire world, and only in that one place does Jesus dwell in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  In that world, how would Catholics approach that single tabernacle of the Most High?  That thought experiment helps us grasp somewhat the sacredness of the Temple for Jews of Jesus’ day.

In Jesus’ day, one of the obligations of a good Jew was to go to Jerusalem at the time of Passover, and to offer a sacrifice in the Temple.  Those who were wealthy offered an entire ox or sheep, while those with less means offered turtledoves.  So there grew up a very large market during the time around Passover, a system within which many abuses developed.

Jesus undoubtedly had people cheering for Him as He chastised the Jewish officials and money-makers.  But how many cheered for Him when the Jews asked for a sign from Jesus, and He replied, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?  Probably some were baffled:  here He had purified the Temple, and now He wanted to destroy it?

For ourselves, Christ is the Temple, of which we are part through the Church.  We need to purify ourselves—in thought, word and deed; mind, spirit, and body—just as Jesus cleansed the Temple, so that right sacrifice might be offered there.

St. Andrew Dũng-Lc, Priest & Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs
Revelation 11:4-12  +  Luke 20:27-40
November 24, 2018

And they no longer dared to ask Him anything.

In today’s Gospel passage, Our Lord tries to make clear to the Sadducees the meaning of the Resurrection.  We too, however, even if we understand and believe in both the Resurrection of Our Lord and the promise of resurrection that God offers to all who die, perhaps may need to realize what type of claim the Resurrection makes upon us as Christians.

To believe in the Resurrection is to believe in the future fulfillment of God’s grace.  It is to understand that the suffering of the present is as nothing compared to the future glory to be revealed in Christ Jesus.  It is to guard in God’s name what has been entrusted to me until that final Day, which for each of us is the day of our death.

We never find Our Lord going into great detail about the nature of the afterlife.  There are two practical reasons for this.  First, the glory which will be the reward of God’s elect is too far beyond our comprehension.  Second, our only hope for sharing in that glory is to persevere in running the race which God has set before us, to stir into flame the gift of God each of us first received at our baptism, a flame in which we are purified like gold in the furnace.