|No Kooks Allowed.
The Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the secondary dominica, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Daniel 12: 1-3.
• Psalm 16: 5, 8-11.
• Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18.
• Mark 13: 24-32.
The Sixth Remaining Sunday after Epiphany.*
Lessons from the dominica, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Thessalonians 1: 2-10.
• Psalm 43: 8-9.
• Matthew 13: 31-35.
The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; the First Sunday of Phillip's Fast;** and, the Feast of the Holy Martyrs and Confessors Gurias, Samonas & Habib.
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Ephesians 4: 1-6.
• Ephesians 6: 10-17.
• Luke 10: 25-37.
• Luke 12: 8-12.
10:07 AM 11/15/2015 —
The Lord said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. You will call upon me, and I will answer you, and I will lead back your captives from every place (RM3).
It's from the prophesy of Jeremiah (29: 11-12, 14), and had we not had a hymn, that would have been the Entrance Antiphon I would have read at the beginning of Holy Mass today. Strikingly appropriate given the events of the last few days, as we witnessed on television the horrific events in Paris; France's 9/11, they are calling it. It goes hand in hand with the apocalyptic tone that seems to pervade the lessons of today's Mass, from the first lesson from Daniel, in which the youthful prophet speaks of the Archangel Michael battling with the forces of Satan, and declaring, “Many shall wake, that now lie sleeping in the dust of earth, some to enjoy life everlasting, some to be confronted for ever with their disgrace” (12: 2 Knox), to our Blessed Lord speaking of the end times when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will refuse her light; and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in heaven will rock …” (Mark 13: 24 Knox).
And this can be a very dangerous thing, especially for those of us who are devoted to the Mother of God and who take the message of our Lady at Fatima seriously: we tend to be a bit apocalyptic in our thinking, tempted to see in every tragedy that comes down the pike some sort of signal of the end times. There may even be some of us who secretly hope that such a thing could possibly be true. Disgusted as we are with the direction of the country, the state of the world, even the state of the Church, the prospect of the second coming of Christ, ablaze in glory, incinerating the enemies of truth and dogma and morality in one glorious mushroom cloud of divine justice, may appeal to the darker side of our nature. These feelings are not entirely unjustifiable, nor are they in any way sinful; but, they are dangerous, because it means that we're reading the Holy Gospel selectively. And we all do this from time to time: we latch on to a verse of Scripture that pulls some sort of trigger in our emotionally disturbed minds, but then we stop reading and miss other verses that would throw cold water on the heat of our private musings. Yes, in today's Gospel lesson our Lord says that we “will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds, with great power and glory. And then he will send out his angels, to gather his elect from the four winds, from earth’s end to heaven’s” (v. 26 Knox), and that gets us all excited and hyped up, so much so that we don't bother reading on to the end of the lesson: “But as for that day and that hour you speak of, they are known to nobody, not even to the angels in heaven, not even to the Son; only the Father knows them” (v. 32 Knox). The admonition of our Blessed Lord is clear: anyone who comes along telling you that everything happening in the world today portents to the great battle that will harken the end times and the coming of Christ is a kook, and we should ignore him. But what about those of us who are tempted to be him?
It's becoming almost a litany in confession these days: as the world seems to be falling apart around us, and Christians are being slaughtered by the thousands, the world, the government, even the Church, seem to be more concerned with trivial and worldly things. Oh, they'll respond to a crisis like Paris with all the right words of outrage and concern and condolence; but, as soon as the crisis is no longer front page news, they're back to planning their next conference on climate change. It upsets people, and it's understandable. But as understandable as it may be on a purely human level, it signals a spiritual defect: a failure to cultivate in our lives the Virtue of Hope. How many times this past year have I spoken of it as “the forgotten virtue”?
November, as you know, is set aside by Holy Mother Church as a time to concentrate our efforts on praying for the faithful departed, beginning as it does with the twin days of All Saints and All Souls. All Souls fell on a Saturday this year, and most of you were not with us here, so let me repeat myself:
There's a very interesting scene at the very end of the Gospel of St. John. There are a lot of curious scenes that are recorded in John’s Gospel that aren’t in the other three, and a lot of them we don’t read about in Church. If you accept John's unique chronology of events—which is different from those of the other three Evangelists—this event would take place right after the Crucifixion, and Peter and a few of the other disciples are sitting on the beach around a fire just as evening is falling. Jesus, who had just risen from the dead, walks up to them, but they don’t know who He is. And after a while Peter gets up and says, “I’m going fishing.” It’s a significant moment, because what was Peter before he met our Lord? He was a fisherman. Jesus told him that he would become a fisher of men, but that was three years before; and, now Jesus was dead, or so Peter thought. When he gets up off the beach and says, “I’m going fishing,” what he’s really saying is, “It’s over. It was nice while it lasted, but it’s over. I’m going back to they way things were before I even met this Jesus person.” Jesus, whom he doesn’t recognize, goes fishing with him, and what do you think happens? Jesus repeats the very same miracle He performed when first he met Peter: the miraculous catch of fish. And, of course, with that, Peter recognizes Jesus, and realizes that he’s committed the sin of losing hope.
The lesson wasn't lost on Peter, and it can't be lost on us. When we’ve reached the point where we cannot conceive of any way out of our problems—when there is just no solution that we can think of—all of a sudden Jesus provides one that we couldn’t have thought of because, to our way of thinking, it was impossible.
Mihi autem adhærére Deo bonum est; pónere in Dómino Deo spem meam (v. 28). It's from Psalm 73, and if there were not a hymn during Holy Communion we would read it as our Communion Antiphon today: “To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord” (RM3). But for those who have failed to cultivate the Virtue of Hope that can be a tall order: to place “hope in God the Lord.” It seems the last couple of weeks I've been calling the Roman Missal to task for cutting our Gospel lessons off to quickly, stopping just one or two verses shy of something that means so much; and, today's lesson is another example (unless it means that I'm just crazy, which is entirely possible). But, just after the last verse of today's lesson, wherein our Blessed Lord warns us, “… of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” He then speaks the words which tell us what we're supposed to do about it: “… watch and pray; you do not know when the time is to come” (13: 33 Knox). Watch and pray. What better advice could there be than that?
Of course, praying requires that our minds and hearts be peaceful and at rest, and that's not easy when we're upset and in a state of agitation, which is why cultivating every day that most necessary Virtue of Hope is so crucial; and, perhaps the first step in learning to do that is found in another psalm, Psalm 62, which contains a resolution and a promise that we can all make to our Lord as we meet him in the Most Blessed Eucharist today: Nam et ipse Deus meus et salutaris meus; susceptor meus, non movebor amplius—“He alone is my God and my Saviour, my protector; I shall be disturbed no more” (v. 3 personal translation).
* Because the date of Easter is variable, so are the number of Sundays from Pentecost until the First Sunday of Advent; yet, the Roman Missal of the extraordinary form does not provide texts for Sundays beyond the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost. Therefore, if there are more than twenty-three, the texts for these Masses are taken from the Masses which were previously omitted after Epiphany (with the exception of the Last Sunday after Pentecost, which is always the Sunday before Advent, and for which there are specific texts). In this way, the Missal provides for every Sunday in it to be celebrated, at one time or another, in the course of the year. Today is offered the Mass of the second of these left-over Sundays: the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany.
** Phillip's Fast, the season of penitential preparation for Christmas, so named because it begins on the day after the Feast of the Apostle Phillip on the Byzantine Calendar, corresponds to the Roman Rite season of Advent, though it's origins are much later, dating no earlier than the thirteenth century. Lasting for six weeks rather than the four of Advent, what is required during this period varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The traditional observance would be a strict abstinence from both meat and dairy products on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with wine and oil allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays; then, beginning on December 10th in some Churches and on December 20th in others, the strict abstinence becomes daily except on Saturdays and Sundays on which there is traditionally never a fast.
The Particular Law of the Ruthenian Metropolia in the United States (Canon 880, § 2) recognizes Phillip's Fast as a penitential season, states the traditional observance, then requires that it be observed voluntarily according to one's individual ability … not unlike the observance in the Latin Church, in which nothing is specifically required.