13 November 2016: Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Mal 3:19-20a Ps 98:5-6, 7-8, 9 2 Thes 3:7-12 Lk 21:5-19

The end of the world: a time of fear or faith?

Green_banner_sm On this last Sunday in Ordinary time, the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on the end times and Jesus’ return. This week’s readings invite us to consider the coming kingdom.

In the first reading, Malachi (the name means “my messenger”) describes the coming “day of the Lord.” The prophets use this phrase to signal the hoped-for messiah’s appearance: God will establish God’s kingdom, save those who remained faithful to the covenant, and punish the unfaithful ones. The Lectionary editors chose this reading with its apocalyptic images to match today’s gospel theme.

In the second reading, from the second letter to the Thessalonians, the author addresses a specific problem: some members, believing that Jesus had already returned, stopped working. These members were now were living off the work of the rest of the community. The letter’s author states clearly: everyone works together to support the believing community.

Luke’s gospel presents part of Jesus’ “eschatological discourse.” Eschatology is “the study of the last things:” the end times, God’s judgement, and the establishment of God’s kingdom. Jesus (and Luke) want us to know the following:

  • Destruction of the Jerusalem temple: As Jesus is teaching in the temple, he hears some people ooh and aah about the temple’s expensive decoration. Jesus tells them that “the days are coming” when all this will be destroyed. When Luke writes his gospel (mid 80s AD), Jesus’ prophecy is already fulfilled: the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. Luke offers Jesus’ fulfilled prophecy as evidence of who Jesus is.
  • Signs of the end times: Like Malachi in the first reading, Jesus uses apocalyptic images (wars, famines, earthquakes, signs in the sky) of the end times that precede God’s bringing forth the kingdom. Apocalyptic (meaning “to unveil” or “to reveal”) language developed in Jewish culture to describe the fulfillment of prophecies, especially of the end times. Jesus’ apocalyptic words place him in the Jewish prophetic tradition.
  • Persecutions: Jesus tells his disciples that they will be persecuted, but that these persecutions will allow them to “give testimony” or “bear witness” to Jesus. When Luke writes his gospel, the emperor Nero (mid 60s AD) has already executed Peter, Paul, and other disciples; and local leaders sporadically threaten Christians. Jesus’ fulfilled prophecy again shows who Jesus is.
  • Do not be afraid: Jesus tells current (and future) disciples, “by your perseverance (in faith) you will secure your lives.” Jesus comforts his disciples, reminding us that we are saved from destruction and persecution through faith in him.

On this last Sunday in Ordinary time, the readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to think about God’s coming kingdom. We pray in the Our Father, “let your kingdom come.” We don’t need to wait for the world to end to join God’s kingdom–we’ll join at the end of our earthly lives. As faithful Christians, we look forward to letting God’s kingdom come with hope, not fear. Our faith saves us.

—Terence Sherlock

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