November 13th COMMENTARY
33rd SUNDAY in ORDINARY TIME
Luke 21: 5 – 19
The incessant talking heads pontificating about the Election are enough to cause major anxiety. One may think the same about today’s gospel reading with the predictions of great earthquakes and fearful events. But is impending doom the heart of this reading?
Join me as we use our imaginations and become reporters covering this Gospel event. Not in the manner of today’s journalists. We are going to dig for what is newsworthy, the pearl of great price. In fact we are going to do just what Luke himself did when he wrote the Gospel:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled and handed down to us by those first eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, so that you may know the certainty of the things…” Lk 1: 1-4
Yes Luke himself was a journalist of sorts, writing a biography of Jesus and the disciples to show their import to his community.
So to uncover the real story, we are going to follow the “old school” method of reporting: discovering the facts about Who What, When Where and How.
The WHO: The players are Jesus and his disciples, his close friends. The ones who stayed with Him on His journey to Jerusalem. The handful who witnessed Jesus’s powerful miracles like feeding the 5,000. The handful who also witnessed the constant mocking of Christ by his family, friends and Jewish leaders. THIS event captures an intimate moment of Our Lord confiding with his beloved.
The WHAT: The WHAT is the FUTURE. Jesus overhears his disciples talking about the temple beauty and uses the occasion to prepare his friends of it’s future destruction. More importantly, Christ spoke what must have been unnerving for simple fishermen to hear: “they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons; you’ll be brought before Kings and governors on account of me. “ Lk 21:12
The WHEN: We are approaching the climax of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus has arrived at His destination and His destiny. His triumphal entry which we recount every Palm Sunday happened back in Luke 19. Today’s Gospel is from Luke 21. This scene in the Temple takes place just before THE Passover, when the Passion of Christ begins. Our Lord KNEW He had little time left. How generous was Jesus to tenderly, considerately prepare His closest earthly friends for overwhelming future events.
Not just those sheep – but future flocks as well.
The WHERE: The scene takes place in the Temple of Jerusalem, the iconic symbol of God’s Presence. The Jerusalem Temple served as the tangible identity of the Jewish people, individually and corporately. The massive edifice was symbolic of the Nation of Israel. Like our White House, or the National Mall, it spoke stability, power and favor.
The HOW: How does Christ prepare his disciples for the future?
Like the great physician that he is, Jesus is gentle but straightforward – and most importantly, assuring. He lays out THREE critical steps that will ensure success in the end:
1. “DO NOT BE Frightened. “ Lk 21:9. Frightening things will happen. Then, and now. Our temples –those things that speak stability, things that represent our identity, our security – they may crumble. Jesus says …”There will be wars, fearful events, and great signs in heaven.” But he commands us: “Do not be frightened.”
2. Understand the BIGGER PICTURE. “They will … persecute you…. all on account of my name. This will lead to your giving testimony.” Lk 21:12-13. Your response to persecution WILL RESULT IN YOUR BEING WITNESSES TO THEM. Sounds scary and overwhelming. Do I want to participate in such a noble purpose? Many of the greatest saints lived under the persecution of their own religious order – like Padre Pio and St. Therese of the Child Jesus. These two holy saints held fast to Christ’s teachings; they trusted, they were obedient. They persevered in Love. Their perseverance was a powerful testimony to beautiful conversions of their accusers. Let us trust, God and stand fast in loyalty to His ways.
3. “BUT MAKE UP YOUR MIND NOT TO WORRY BEFOREHAND HOW YOU WILL DEFEND YOURSELF. FOR I Myself – The King of Kings and Lord of Lords – WILL GIVE YOU WORDS and A WISDOM that NONE of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. “
Have you ever experienced God “speaking through you?” Have you ever uttered words graced with a wisdom that you know is beyond your capability? If so, you will have had a taste of God’s power and unfathomable love for you and those who witnessed your words. And you will never be the same.
The promise of Godly Wisdom under persecution is a powerful grace that surpasses many spiritual gifts. Grace under persecution is for all of us, not just a few. Isn’t it what Christ modeled just days later before Pilot and Herod?
Back to our reporting. Where is the real story here?
The Pearl to take away??
I think it’s in found in the WHO and the HOW.
The WHO were his close friends, the original disciples. Dear sisters in Christ, the WHO is us, His followers who TODAY seek Him still. His message of preparation is to encourage you and me. To assure us. And also to help us understand that OUR PERSEVERENCE will BE our testimony. Our perseverance will be our testimony. We have a role to play in the conversion of the rest of the world. Jesus needs you and me.
In contrast, His message of preparation will be foolishness to those who rely ONLY on the world’s logic; who use fear and intimidation, criticism, and mockery to get their way. Who cling to and worship power, prestige and the wealth of this world. Who are so busy that they have lost their way to the source of all peace.
The HOW is our TRUST in His words. Not just his words, but his commands:
1. DO not be frightened. Do not be afraid. 2 Tim. 1:7 says “God does not give us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power and love and sound mind.”
2. Make up your minds NOW not to worry about how you will defend yourself. This is a DIRECT QUOTE from Christ to each of us according to our reporter, St. Luke. This is a choice that YOU and I can make today – and renew every day. God is faithful.
3. Additionally – the Holy Spirit is always on the move, creating, equipping. As Christ said to the disciples in Acts 1:7-8 “It is not for you to know the times or dates…But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you WILL BE my WITNESSES in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Let me repeat that: “You WILL be clothed with POWER when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” We have already received the gift of Confirmation and therefore the gift of the Spirit. But we need continual infilling. Even today in Church, we continue to pray “come Holy Spirit, send out the fire of your Love and renew the face of the earth!”
The HOW is our openness to the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. This is THE Pearl. We are clothed with power from on High through the continuous outpouring of the Spirit. Let us operate from this place. The Spirit is our power source in all circumstances, but most especially when we are called to persevere.
4. There is one other great pearl: “BY YOUR PRESEVERENCE you will SECURE your lives.” Lk 21:19. Most of our temples are our treasures – beautiful blessings from God, just like the beautiful Temple’s stones being discussed by the disciples. But we know the greatest treasure we seek is eternal life with Christ. Our perseverance will secure our lives with Him. He promised us. And He is faithful. Perseverance in following HIM and His way of Love, of forgiveness, of mercy. Perseverance to be strong and courageous in the Lord will SECURE your lives.
Our spiritual instruction for this week :
There is only one way to show Jesus you love Him – let Him LOVE you!
My dear sisters in Christ – LET Him Love you! Let Him encourage you, Let Him strengthen you in your innermost being through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I pray for each of you and for myself as a prophey the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians: (Eph 3:17-19)
“….that you – being rooted and established in love may have POWER to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for you….and that you may KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge and that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of GOD.” The fullness of God!
When you have a GLIMPSE of the depth of His love, you will be inspired, compelled to persevere out of love in return!
This gospel reading is the 2nd to last Sunday of the Liturgical year. On the physical plane, we find ourselves moving toward the last season – the darkest, often dreariest time of year. These factors encourage us to pause, assess, reflect. To chose wisely, to treasure the Pearls like those we’ve uncovered today.
And let us partake in the gifts available to us. Allow the Spirit to lead you toward more occasions for Jesus to love you. More intimate Quiet Times, more devout reception of the Holy Eucharist, of Reconciliation – that we may be chose to live without fear, free to live out His mercy and His Love. Amen.