The 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Malachi 3:19-20 + 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 + Luke 21:5-19
Catechism Link: CCC 162
November 13, 2022
“By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Jesus’ last sentence in today’s Gospel Reading presents a two-edged sword. “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” While Jesus says that you will secure your lives, this will only occur by your perseverance. What that perseverance demands is the sharper side of the sword.
We can define the word “perseverance” as hanging on “through” what is “severe”. Not many of us have ever literally faced something as severe as a cliff-hanger in the jungles of the Amazon. Yet more than a few of us have faced death.
Maybe you were involved in a serious vehicle accident where you came within an inch of losing your life. You might have faced a serious illness that could have been terminal, but for some mysterious reason took a turn for the better. Regardless, every experience of suffering is an occasion for a moral choice between two opposing perspectives. You must choose between looking at suffering as an end, or looking at it as a means.
The venerable Monsignor Ivan Eck has a saying that he’s well known for. “In the face of suffering, you can choose to be bitter, or you can choose to be better.” You get to choose. The difference between the two choices is that, on the one hand, you can choose to be bitter through your own power alone. On the other hand, you can only be better through God’s strength.
In this Sunday’s Gospel Reading, Jesus describes many types of suffering that His disciples might experience. However, He’s not outlining these types of suffering to frighten us, but to alert us both to our need for perseverance and to what perseverance demands from us.
There’s a distinction that we need to understand in order to appreciate Christian perseverance. God’s strength not only makes it possible for us to hang on in spite of what life throws at us. In fact, we hang on to God Himself.
This Sunday’s First Reading can help us put into a broader perspective what it means to hang on to God. The First Reading is taken from the Book of Malachi, which is the last book of the Old Testament.
Throughout the book named after him, Malachi prophesies—in the Name of the Lord—about what he calls “the day” or sometimes “that day”. Without knowing Jesus, it’s easy to feel fear when Malachi prophesies: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire… says the Lord of hosts.”
However, in the last verse of today’s First Reading, we hear a message of hope. Malachi prophesies in the Name of the Lord: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” These are words that can inspire perseverance. Although these words speak of fear, this is a particular type of fear. This is not servile fear, as you would naturally fear a wolf that’s bearing down upon you. Malachi prophesies about the type of fear that brings healing and strength.
Fear of the Lord’s Name is another way of speaking about religious awe of God. A more pedestrian way at getting at this same truth is the modern quip: “There are only two things I know for sure: #1, there is a God; and #2, I’m not Him.” Of course, it’s easy to say such a thing, but harder to live from such a conviction.
Nonetheless, what the Jews knew only dimly, as in a mirror, Jesus revealed plainly in His very Person when He walked this earth. The Most Holy Name of Jesus literally means “God saves.”
So consider this question: how often do you call on the Name of Jesus as you work to persevere through difficulties? You might be tempted to use the Holy Name of Jesus in vain. But Jesus instead wants us when we’re suffering to use His Name not to express frustration, but to call for the strength that only He can give.
Calling on the Name of Jesus when striving to persevere in faith may seem quaint to some, or even superstitious. Regardless, make a resolution that three times during the coming week you’ll call on the Name of Jesus out loud when you’re struggling with some situation, striving to persevere in the life of faith.