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November 16, 2003 Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week we celebrate the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This is the second last Sunday of this liturgical year. As we approach the end of the Church's year, she calls upon us to meditate on the great themes of the end time and about the return of Christ in glory. Whether we make it to the end time or not is really not important. Death will eventually come for us all and there will eventually be a final judgment. The real message that the Church wishes to share on this subject is that for those who follow Christ, the end too is a cause for joy. Christians hold that, for us, no destruction is truly final. We shall rise again to be with Christ just as we rose from the waters of Baptism. Do the readings this week speak encouragement to me as they were intended to do or do they spark fear in me? If I don't see them as encouraging, then how should my attitude change so that I will see them in the same light as the early Christians did?

First Reading: Daniel 12: 1-3

1 "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.

2 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.

3 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.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 12:1 This is part of the last and longest of the apocalypses in the book of Daniel. This is the poetic conclusion of the revelation of chapters 10 and 11. The elect of God, whose names are "found written in the book" of life, will survive the terrible sufferings of the eschatological crisis. See Exod 32:32-33; Ps 69:29.

* 12:2 Sleep was a common euphemism for "dead". See John 11:11-13; Acts 7:60; 1 Thess 4:13.

Shall awake is a euphemism for "shall come back to life". In this passage we have the earliest clear statement in the Bible of belief in the resurrection of the dead. This passage is also the first Biblical use of the term, "unto everlasting life" which is the literal meaning of the words translated in the NAB as "shall live forever."

Second Reading: Hebrew 10: 11-14, 18

11 Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; 13 now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.
[15 The holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying:

16 "This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord:
'I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them upon their minds,'"

17 he also says:
"Their sins and their evildoing
I will remember no more."]

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 10:11 The author speaks of "every priest" rather than of the high priest alone and therefore is no longer thinking of the Day of Atonement but of the daily priestly service of the Old Testament.

* 10:12 Although there is a contrast between the seated kingly posture of Christ and the standing posture of the priest, that contrast may not have been the intended thrust of the passage. See also 8:2-3. The images of Christ functioning as King and as Priest overlap. The image of Jesus seated in heaven as king is an application of Ps 110:1 to Jesus. In addition the author may have in mind 2 Sam 7:18 where David prays seated before the Lord, as a claim to the fulfillment of God's covenant promises to David.

The understanding of Jesus as the eternal priest before the Father derives from an understanding of eternity as being outside of time rather than simply as time continued forever.

* 10:13 The time of waiting is an allusion to Ps 110:1b. This time stretches from the enthronement of Jesus to His return in glory.

* 10:14 Their consciences having been cleansed, His followers are able to worship the living God, 9:14. So they too have access to the Father and share in the priestly consecration of Jesus.

* 10:15-17 This portion [in brackets above] is not included in the reading this week. Here, the testimony of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is invoked by citing part of the prophecy from Jer 31:31-34 which speaks of a new covenant.

* 10:18 The point is that it is the sacrifice of Jesus that resulted in the forgiveness of sins and thus no further sacrifice is needed.

Gospel Reading: Mark 13: 24-32

24 "But in those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,

25 and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, 27 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.

28 "Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. 30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
NOTES on Gospel:
* 13:24-32 This describes the event that makes sense of all human history. The justice and love of God will be made clear. In the traditional language of the prophets, cosmic events are used to describe powerful interventions of God in history and in this case to the messianic crisis, followed by the final triumph of chosen people with the Son of Man at their head. Mark does not tie in the end of the world to this event the way Matthew does.

* 13:26 The term and description comes from Dan 7:13. Jesus referred to the statement in Daniel when He stood before the high priest in Mt 26:64; Mark 14:62; and Lk 22:69.

* 13:27 Here Mark portrays the reversal of Zech 2:10. God gathers the elect in Deut 30:4; Isa 11:11, 16; 27:12; Eze 39:27 and in many other places in the Old Testament. Nowhere in the Old Testament does the Son of Man do it; it is always God. Here the writer ascribes one of the functions of God to the Son of Man. It is a way of indirectly ascribing divinity to Jesus.

* 13:32 Here Jesus tells us not to try to figure out God's time schedule because we are not meant to know. This verse was a problem for many of the patristic (early Fathers of the Church) writers. It was sometimes used as evidence by those who denied the divinity of Jesus. Some resolve it by saying that in His Divine Nature Jesus did know the hour but in His human mind and knowledge, which is the way in which He interacted with His disciples He did not know the hour. While this may be true, it does not really explain everything because the real explanation contains something of mystery since the incarnation itself is a mystery. This element of Divine mystery takes Jesus outside of the realm of what can and must be analyzed and calls for faith.

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The scripture quotes are from the text of the New American Bible with revised New Testament copyright © 1986,1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.