Please note: two reflections are given below, each based on the First Reading or Responsorial Psalm of the day. The Year I readings apply to years ending in an odd number (for example, 2023), while the Year II readings apply to years ending in an even number, such as 2024. The Gospel Reading is the same in both years.
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Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time [Year I]
Daniel 7:2-14 + Luke 21:29-33
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away ….
Today’s First Reading from Daniel follows naturally from last Sunday’s celebration of Christ the King. There are few queens and kings in the world today who truly rule as monarchs, and the peoples of many nations (such as the United States) reject the very idea of having a queen or king. Indeed, in modern Western thought, government is “by the people”, and all elected officials hold power only through consent of the governed. While such ideas hold merit when it comes to civil government, problems arise when they are applied to the spiritual life and to the life of the Church.
In Daniel’s vision, the “son of man” “received dominion, glory and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion”. The word “dominion” comes from the Latin word “dominus”, meaning “lord” (either human or divine). Older Catholics are familiar with the phrase “Dominus vobiscum” (“The Lord be with you”). The English word “dominate” is a cognate.
Secular Western culture rejects all ideas of domination, even in the spiritual life. There are many “brands” of religion and spirituality that reject even the notion that God should be seen as a “lord” who has “dominion”. At the heart of many modern religions and spiritualities is the idea enshrined in a modern U. S. Supreme Court decision that each human being has a right to create her or his own view of reality, including the definition of life itself. Whatever the origins of such ideas, they cannot be reconciled with the Bible, whose God is, at one and the same time, both a loving Father and a providential Lord.
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Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time [Year II]
Revelation 20:1-4,11—21:2 + Luke 21:29-33
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
The last verse of today’s First Reading offers a key to understanding the entire Book of Revelation. Mysterious as most of its imagery is, the image of “a bride adorned for her husband” is one that we readily understand.
The entire sentence where he describes this wedded couple is: “I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride….” This bride is the Church, and her husband is Christ. This might seem odd, since it’s a city that is the bride. But a city is a collection of persons joined together by several ties. Here St. John is insisting that the most important tie is that of its members being wedded to the bridegroom. St. John is describing the Church as a city, whereas St. Paul uses the metaphor of “the Body of Christ”. As members of this heavenly Jerusalem, how can we reflect on our own participation in the Church?
We must think of this city as having a divine center, and ask whether our participation in the life of this city is oriented to this center, or whether instead we live in a little back alley of the city, focused on our own interests, apart from the needs of others and the will of the city’s “mayor”, Christ.
“The holy city” is the Church, the Bride of Christ. But on this next-to-last day of the Church’s year, as her reflection focuses intently on the Second Coming, two facts about this city of Jerusalem especially stand out. The first is the historical fact that the city’s savior and bridegroom was crucified outside the city. The second is the spiritual fact that in the vision of the Beloved Disciple, this “new Jerusalem, [comes] down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride”. This city is “prepared as a bride” as it comes “down out of heaven”. That is to say, it’s God’s grace, and not man’s efforts, that make this bride what she is. We need to disavow the falsehood of those who exhort: “Let us build the city of God.” This is the cry of Babel. The cries of Heaven are cries of joy, that there, the last thing is the first thing, the Alpha and the Omega, the love which builds the city of God, washes away our sins, and makes us faithful citizens.