The Lord’s teaching will outlast this world

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  • November 5, 2015

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Nov. 15 (Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32)

Many people have been convinced that they were living through the absolute worst time in the history of the world. The carnage and destruction of the First and Second World Wars, as well as the devastation of revolutions, plagues and natural disasters all vie for the top of the list of horrors. It seemed to those who were experiencing these things that the end of the world had indeed come.

But the world marches on — the dust settles, cities are rebuilt, people recover and put their lives together again. The Book of Daniel was written during the Maccabean revolt of the second century B.C. The Jews rose in revolt against their Greek rulers to prevent them from destroying their religion and culture. During the terrible conflict, those who renounced their religion and collaborated with the Greeks prospered, while those who were faithful and steadfast paid the ultimate price. This raised a very important question: is God truthful, faithful and trustworthy? They asked why God had not protected them despite their fidelity. The prophecy of Daniel was meant to impart courage, perseverance and hope to the righteous sufferers. They were assured their choices and actions today would have consequences for all eternity. Michael the great prince would do battle on behalf of the people. God would raise up all who sleep in the earth for judgment.

This is the first unambiguous appearance of the Resurrection in the Bible. Those who had been faithful and just would shine for all eternity. Their steadfastness was not wasted. The wicked and the faithless would feel the sting of shame and abject failure that comes with the knowledge of wasted opportunities.

The world is a strange place — it doesn’t always seem fair or just. It often appears that the wicked prosper and those who struggle to do what is right suffer. It is easy to give in to cynicism. Don’t be a fool — go along with the herd, take care of yourself — these are but a few of the typical self-preserving reactions that tempt us. A faith-filled reaction, on the other hand, recognizes we live in a profoundly moral and spiritual universe. The decisions we make and the things we do matter — now and eternity. We might not see the total picture or the results of our choices immediately, but the day will come when we will rejoice we chose wisely.

With that in mind, we are indeed fortunate that Christ sits at the right hand of God and completes what we lack in our spiritual journey. We could never do it on our own. Not only did He “pay His dues,” He paid the ultimate price for all of us so that He would be in a position to help all who call on His name.

Two centuries later, suffering and tribulation were still in store for the people of God. According to Mark, the agony would reach a crescendo and be followed by the return of Jesus. It would literally be an earth-shaking event, reflected in the heavens and throughout all of creation. Jesus would be even greater than the archangel Michael in the reading from Daniel. His angels would gather the faithful elect from the farthest reaches of the Earth. When will all of these things happen? Jesus stated that it would happen before that generation passed from the Earth. This has evoked a lot of comment and controversy over the centuries. From all appearances, Jesus was mistaken, but that possibility disturbs some people. Jesus went on to say that He did not know the day or hour, but only God the Father. Perhaps we should take Jesus at His word!

The second part of His statement is more important. Everything else, even Heaven and Earth, can pass away, but His words — His teachings — will last forever. Let others make their own choices, even those that are wrong. That is their business; ours is fidelity to God. By remaining faithful to the teachings of the Lord, we will weather whatever storm comes our way. In fact, we will do better than that — we will grow spiritually and experience the peace that comes with walking in the ways of God.

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