33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 19, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16:5-11
Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Theme: He Is Near
There are signs to remind us that Christ is near.
Jesus’ words had contemporary meaning for those of his immediate listeners. The language of prophecy he employs is common in scripture. All of the drama of the lights of heaven going out was poetic language for the end of the Old Covenant. All of the prophets of the Old Covenant prophesied about our Lord’s coming. Even Christ’s cousin, John the Baptist declared his own mission as declining as Christ’s ministry ascended to the forefront of Israel’s life.
This language is graphic in order to highlight the spiritual darkness resulting from Israel’s spiritual leadership’s rejection of the Son of Man. It is St. John who reminds us of the Word made flesh entering this spiritual darkness. But as profound as this darkness and its effects is the darkness does not prevail. Note that all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:5-14)
Our Lord describes himself as ‘coming in the clouds.’ In scripture, descriptive language speaks of God’s presence as clouds. “He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind.” (Psalm 104:3) With Israel God was a “pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.” Jesus similarly states he will be coming to His own ‘in the clouds with great power and glory.’
For the generation Jesus was addressing, the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was the consummate sign that He is near, even at the gates. The superiority of Christ’s sacrifice is seen in that he has ‘taken his seat forever at the right hand of God.’ (Hebrews 10:11-14, 18) It is this blessed assurance that his one sacrifice for sins is forever efficacious. This is in contrast to the sacrifices under the glorious priestly ministry of the Old Covenant, which could never take away sins.
The signs our Lord left us in the Eucharist assure us that He is near. Today’s readings remind us that we are still in a time of spiritual darkness. Many claim that evil is good and that good is bad. The great prince of angels, St. Michael remains a guardian of the people of God. But in the Holy Food, Christ is near us. Faith assures us that Christ is the Bread and the Wine is His blood. Those who rejected this revelation in Jesus day have relatives in ours. But let us not be distracted by the spiritual poverty on the one hand or the naysayers on the other. Every time the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to come upon the gifts of the altar, Christ is lifted up again and if He be lifted up, He shall draw all men unto himself.
Let us Pray: Dear Jesus, you have promised to never leave us nor forsake us. May we ever be grateful for the Holy Food you have left us. Though we are not worthy of ourselves to receive you, you have healed us and invited us to commune with you as friend with friend. May we in our troubled times take your friendship into the world. Amen.