Sunday, November 17, 2013

HOMILY – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral  11/18/13
Malachi 3:19–20             2 Thess. 3:7– 12      Luke 21:5-19

A young pastor was sitting in a restaurant eating lunch.
He opened a letter from his mother he just got that morning.
As he opened it a twenty dollar bill fell out.
He thought: "Thanks, mom, I could use that right about now."
As he finished his meal he noticed a beggar outside on the sidewalk
leaning against the light post.
He thought: "That fella could probably use the $20 more than I."
So he crossed out the information on the envelope,

put the $20 back in the envelope
and wrote across it in large letters,"PERSEVERE!"

So as not to make a scene,
he put the envelope under his arm
and dropped it as he walked past the man.
The man picked it up, read the message and smiled.
The next day, while the pastor was eating his lunch,
the same man tapped him on the shoulder
and handed him a big wad of bills.
Surprised, the young pastor asked him what it was for?
The man replied, “This is your half of the winnings.
‘PERSEVERE’ came in first
 in the fourth race at the track yesterday,
and he paid 30 to 1.”


If today’s Gospel reading makes you scratch your head,
take heart.
Scripture scholar, Fr. Joseph Fitzmeyer has said that
“there are almost as many interpretations of that discourse
as there are heads to think about it.”

Jesus was predicting the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
The temple had already been destroyed once in 588 B.C.
It was rebuilt.
During Jesus’ lifetime, the temple was in the process
of an enlargement and renovation.
This was the temple that the people were admiring
at the beginning of today’s Gospel.
We might recall that before his crucifixion
Jesus was accused of predicting that “this temple”
would be destroyed
and that He would rebuild it in three days.
The temple was the place where God resided here on earth.
This was one reason Jesus was brought before Pilate.
When Jesus said “this temple” in that instance
he was speaking of himself as the temple.
Its destruction was his death and the rebuilding his resurrection,
for Jesus was God here on earth.

The temple in Jerusalem was again destroyed
in 70 AD by the Romans, 37 years after Jesus death and resurrection.
The author of St. Luke’s Gospel also knew about that destruction
because Luke’s Gospel was written after 70 AD.
We can throw that into the mix for interpreting this reading.
And then it seems that Jesus is referring
to what his followers must endure before the end times.
We also know that the destruction of the Temple has been equated
with the “end times,” the end of the world,
the second coming of Jesus, the true temple of God.

There have been false messiahs
almost immediately after Jesus left this earth
and some more recent:
Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Jim Jones.
There have been awesome sights, mighty wonders,
insurrections, plagues, famines and persecutions
from the time of Jesus’ death to 70 A.D and beyond.
Awesome sights and mighty wonders occur every day.
The sun rises every morning; sunsets are beautiful;
the moon goes through its phases.
We experience thunder, lightning, meteor showers and comets.
There have been many wars, the World Wars,
those before and those since.
There have been droughts, plagues, tornados, hurricanes.
Every major religion has suffered persecutions,
And we still await the end of the world.

Some have even tried to use scripture passages
like this one to predict the date of the end of the world.
Jesus cautioned heavily against such predictions.
He said that it is not for us to know the time or the day.

Using events to predict the date of the second coming of Christ
in order to properly prepare for this event
is not the message Jesus was conveying.
The message I hear is in the last verse of the Gospel
AND the last verse in the first reading.
Jesus said, “You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Malachi spoke for God the following,
“But for you who fear my name,
there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”

Perseverance in the face of difficulty, that is the message.
We must stay on the path of a follower of Christ.
Avoid the false messiahs.
We could think of particular politicians,
Hollywood stars and athletes,
but I prefer to be concerned about the false messiahs
of wealth, power and pleasure.
Stick with true love of God and neighbor as your guide.

Yes, there has been and will be conflict,
but the end will not come in a political victory.
It will be a victory over sin and death.
God’s love is our assurance;
His constant message is “Fear not.”
Yes, there have been and will be natural disasters,
but stay the course.
Use these occasions to strengthen your faith in God,
that He will provide for us.
Yes, there have been persecutions,
and, though you may not think so,
persecution continues to this day.
It comes in veiled forms.

What about biased reporting:
Catholics are often portrayed and “whiners” and “complainers,”
especially with regard to the protection of life
from conception to natural death,
and recently with regard to religious freedom
and the Affordable Care Act.
What about selective recall of the past:
The past sins of Church Officials still make big headlines;
the good works of Church Officials seldom do.
Persecution need not be public:
A non-Catholic who joins the Church can be shunned
 by non-Catholic family members.

Perseverence in faith in the face of persecution is the message.  


Furthermore, Jesus says that the perseverance
will call for your testimony.
We will have to explain our perseverance,
to stand up and be counted for the truth in Christ.
That testimony can come in words and actions,
words and actions that Jesus says your adversaries
will be powerless to resist.
Four weeks ago we were told to persevere in prayer
without growing weary.
Today we are asked to persevere again in our testimony,
both in words and actions, in expressing our faith.
And just like four weeks ago,
we again ask, “How can we do it?” “How can we persevere?”
The answer is the same as four weeks ago:
by our faith in God.
Don’t worry about what you will say or do;
just follow the teachings of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit will provide you with words
 and prompt you for the actions.   
No matter to what extent you will be scorned,
hold fast to the truth in Jesus Christ.

By every instance of our testimony,
our faith will grow stronger.
By our perseverance in being followers of Christ,
we will be recognized as Christians.
and possibly hated by those who are not.
It won’t be easy; we must endure many trials and tribulations,
but our testimony will be so powerful
that “your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute” it.   
If we remain true to the name of Jesus,
though we may falter,
not the smallest part of our soul will be destroyed.

The message is clear.
It has been dropped at our feet
in the envelope of St. Luke’s Gospel.
We have to pick up that message and follow it.