33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Daniel provides the first reading this weekend. Michael, the “great prince” of the angels, is the center of attention. He is one of the few angels who is mentioned by name in the Scriptures.
Michael’s role in Daniel was to defend God’s people. In this role, he, of course, was God’s servant and instrument. Michael, along with the other angels, appears opposite the devils, the fallen angels.
In this reading, Michael protects God’s people. However, the fundamental point is that God protects the good from everlasting death and defeat before evil.
The setting is very trying, a scene of great distress. Persecution, hardship and terror are everywhere. Some will die. However, the names of all will be recorded. The dead will awake. Some will live forever. Others will be cast into eternal doom. Living forever will be the wise. The wise, in the Scriptures’ judgment, are not necessarily persons of high intelligence, but rather those able to perceive the greatness of God in all things.
For the second reading, the church offers us a selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews. This book of the New Testament, majestic in its eloquence and deep in its message, extols Jesus. Drawing upon symbols in ancient Judaism, it describes Jesus as the one and eternal high priest. Jesus offered the ultimate and profound sacrifice.
One with God, Jesus sits at the right hand of God’s throne, judging the good and the bad. He has vanquished all enemies of God and of the right and just.
He sanctifies, or makes holy, all who have been perfected by their turning to God and by having had their sins forgiven.
St. Mark’s Gospel supplies this weekend’s third reading. Scholars assume that this Gospel was the first of the four to be written. Many believe that it was composed in Rome. Some think that the author had connections with Peter. They wonder if the author of this Gospel might not have been a scribe, writing at the behest of the illiterate Peter.
In any case, the Gospel apparently was written in a time of anxiety if not outright persecution. Christians, of course, were under great duress from authorities in Rome about this time.
Maybe this experience led the evangelist to include in the Gospel text the Lord’s words about “trials of every sort.” Difficult times might come, as they indeed came in the awful persecution of Nero and subsequent emperors.
But, no power on earth, not even that the mighty Roman emperor, would be able to thwart God’s plan of salvation. Even if evil seemed to prevail, the heavenly forces of God would descend from the clouds in glory and in victory. God’s messengers would overwhelm any enemy, any representative of darkness and evil.
The readings this weekend set the stage for next weekend, the great feast of Christ the King. They also address a situation as ancient in Christianity as the days of the Apostle Peter in Rome. They speak of the devout living among the enemies of God, amid harsh times.
The first part of the lesson reminds us that life on earth is no paradise. It has never been paradise for anyone loyal to God. Enemies of God are real, and they are active. They come, in the words of the old catechism, from “the world, the flesh and the devil.”
However, none of these enemies is strong enough to stand against God. God will prevail. His will cannot be thwarted. Jesus is God. Jesus triumphed over the devil, for Jesus rescued sinners from the ultimate grasp of the devil. Christians have nothing to fear for Jesus is their guide and protector. Next weekend, the church will joyfully celebrate Christ the King.
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