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Thirty-third Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32.
Reading 1: (Dan 12:1-3):
In those days, I Daniel,
heard this word of the Lord:
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Reading 2: (Heb 10:11-14, 18):
Brothers and sisters:
Every priest stands daily at his ministry,
offering frequently those same sacrifices
that can never take away sins.
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
For by one offering
he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.
Where there is forgiveness of these,
there is no longer offering for sin.
Gospel: (Mk 13:24-32):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’
with great power and glory,
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.
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.
“But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, OP.
I. THEME: Christ’s Second Coming
During last days of the year, the Liturgy of the Word constantly reminds people about Christ’s Second Coming, Christ shall come to judge people. When hearing about the Last Day, people may have one of the following attitudes. Firstly, some people believe in God’s word and begin to prepare for that day by expelling sins and practicing to live a holy life. Secondly, some people think that day is still far away; they want to enjoy their life to the fullest. When that day is near, they shall repent just on time. Lastly, some people think it is a fairy tale, set up to scare children. To them, death is the end; there is nothing after death. They must enjoy their life to the maximum by satisfying all of their desires.
Today readings highlight the signs of the Last Day and what people need to do to prepare for that day. In the first reading, the prophet Daniel said that day is the most miserable day which people never experience in the history of humandkind. On that day, the archangel Michael shall protect God’s chosen ones, and everybody shall be risen up, judged and received rewards or punishments according to the works they did on earth. In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminded people about the effect of Christ’s offering. Though it happened only once, but has power to purify all people’s sins and to sanctify them everyday. In the Gospel, Jesus forewarned his disciples about the two things related to the Last Day. Firstly, all planets in the planetery system shall no longer shine and darkness shall cover the earth before the Last Day. Secondly, the Last Day shall certainly happen but no one knows of the time or the place; therefore, people must be ready and prepared at all times.
1/ Reading I: “It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.”
1.1/ What shall happen on the Last Day? The Book of Daniel was written a long time after the Exile, after the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek’s king. This is the time when the Israelites were threatened and surpressed by the Hellenistic military and culture. The purpose of the Book is to encourage the Israelites to stand firm before dangers and to be loyal with God’s law. The two Books of Maccabees and the Book of Wisdom were also written in this period. However, as the Church’s tradition believes, the Book can be applied both to the prophet Daniel’s time and the later generations. The Gospel according to Mark and the Book of Revelation were influenced by the apocalyptic style of the Book of Daniel.
The author listed these following things shall happen on the Last Day: First is the appearance of the archangel Michael, whom God sends to protect people during the last and miserable period. In the Book of Revelation, the archangel Michael also appears to fight against the dragon who represents for the Satan’s power (x/c Rev 12:7). Secondly, this is the most miserable period which people never experience from the time of people’s first appearance on earth. Lastly, anyone who has his name on the Book of God shall be saved.
The Jewish tradition believes that God has the Book that records all those who are considered God’s friends or righteous people (Cf. Exo 32:32-33, Psa 69:28). The Book of Revelation often mentioned “this Book” or “the Book of eternal life” in which there are the names of those who shall be saved (Rev 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15; 22:7, 9, 10, 18, 19). This Book can be opened only by the Lamb who was killed but is still living.
1.2/ All shall be risen up and judged according to their works on earth: This is the first time in the Old Testament talking about the resurrection of human bodies. Before this time, the Jewish tradition believed that the rewards which God gives to those who keep God’s law are only limited in this life, such as: a long life, many children and material gains. The concept of the resurrection of human bodies was also mentioned in two Books written in this period, the Second Book of Maccabees and the Book of Wisdom (x/c 2 Mac 7:9, 12:43 and Wis 2-5). In the New Testament, Jesus and the evangelists clearly explained about this resurrection (x/c Mk 12:18, Jn 11:23-24, Acts 7:59-60, I Thes 4:13, I Cor 15:12-20). Human bodies are resurrected to be judged and to get rewards or punishments.
(1) The righteous shall be rewarded by God: Two things which God promises to reward those who are loyal are: the eternal life (x/c Jn 6:39-40) and the glory. “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.”
(2) The sinners “shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” The New Testament often mentioned the dark place and the unquenchable fire. The Book of Revelation also mentioned another book besides “the Book of Life.” This Book records all works of sinners; they shall be judged according to what were recorded in this Book (Rev 20:12).
2/ Reading II: By one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.
The purpose of the author in today passage is to highlight the effects of Christ’s offering in the purification of sins and the sanctification of people through his comparison with priestly offerings in the Old Testament.
2.1/ The priests’ offerings: “Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins.” The priests’ offerings can’t be compared with Christ’s offering because they can only forgive venial and unintentional sins, and must be repeated everytime when people sin. These offerings in the temple ended by Christ’s offering on Golgotha mountain. Another reason for this end can be shown is that after Jesus’ death, in the year of 70 AD, the Jerusalem temple was completely destroyed by the Roman power, and never be rebuilt again. One question is posed to the Jews who don’t believe in Christ: How can their sins be forgiven if they don’t offer their sacrifices in the temple, and there is no more temple to offer sacrifices? They must recognize God’s will and believe in Christ.
2.2/ Christ’s offering: “But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.”
Due to the merit of Christ’s offering on Golgotha, Jesus established the sacrament of Baptism to purify people’s sins. After that, if people keep sinning, they can use the sacrament of Reconciliation to confess their sins and to receive their forgiveness. This sacrament is the priceless gift for people. If the sacrament of Reconciliation has the power to forgive all sins, even the serious sins, why people don’t take advantage of the sacrament to expel all sins so that they have nothing to worry about on the Judgment Day! The people of the past must buy their sin offerings and go up to the Jerusalem temple to meet the priests, while today, we only need to come to a priest in any place to make confession, and all of our sins are forgiven. There is nothing more easier.
Moreover, Christ’s offering can be perpetuated on the altar daily to forgive all our venial sins and to give grace for people in the present time. People should take advantage of the sacrament of the Eucharist to be sanctified daily and to receive grace to become better everyday.
3/ Gospel: This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
3.1/ What shall happen before the Last Day? Today passage continues the passage about war and persecution. Jesus said to people: “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” These things also often mentioned in the prophetic Books (Cf. Amo 8:9, Joel 2:10, 3:15, Eze 32:7, 8, Isa 13:10, 34:4).
After these things is the appearance of the Son of Man, as Jesus foretold people, “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory,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.”
3.2/ People should know how to read signs which happen in the world to predict about the Last Day’s coming: Jesus gave people an example, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.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.”
In life, besides the signs happen in the world, God also let people witness the deaths of those in their family, friends and those around them. These deaths remind people about their death. People don’t know the time of their death because death isn’t only happened for the elders, but also for people of all ages. The supposition that people only die at old age has no firm foundation; therefore, the best way is to always prepare as today is our last day, and live in a way that we have no regret if God calls us.
3.3/ No one knows when the Last Day shall happen: Jesus wanted to teach people two things in this sentence, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
(1) The Last Day shall certainly happen because Jesus ascertained: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Lk 21:33). When God said or promised something, that things shall happen. No one knows when the Last Day shall occur except the Father.
(2) If the worldly glory shall pass away, people shouldn’t look for or hang on to it; but to look for the heavenly lasting values.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should differentiate two last days: the one of our life and the other of the universe. When we give up our last breath, it is the last day of our life. We should treat this day as serious as the Last Day of the universe because that day terminates our changing of mind and working for our reward.
– When God said something, that thing shall happen. We shouldn’t gamble our life, so we shall not be regretted when it happens and we lose our life.
– Many of us are so despised and indifferent with the two important sacraments for our life. The sacrament of Reconciliation has power to forgive all our sins so that we shall not be so worried on the Last Day. The sacrament of the Eucharist forgives all venial sins and helps us to become more holy everyday.