Security and Insecurity, 34th Wednesday (I), November 27, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
November 27, 2013
Dan 5:5:1-6.13-14.16-17.23-28, Dan 3, Lk 21:12-19

To listen to a recording of today’s homily, please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • We see in the readings today a huge contrast between seeming security and insecurity and true security and insecurity. This makes the lessons today particularly timely and important because we’re living in an age of deep insecurity.
  • In the first reading, we see King Belshazzar living outwardly very secure. He was throwing a banquet for 1000 courtiers and their wives in a time of great prosperity. He decides to have some of the 5400  gold and silver that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem, using what was sacred for the Jews for their drunken party. He seemed to be totally in control. But then when, straight out of the Addams’ Family, a hand starts writing on the wall, we see that his security was just an outward show: “When the king saw the wrist and hand that wrote,” the Prophet Daniel tells us, “his face blanched; his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked.” None of his pagan experts could mollify his anxiety, because no matter how smart they were, they didn’t have divine wisdom. Daniel was brought in and he was able to interpret the three words that were being written on the wall: mene, tekel, peres, which were three terms for coins. Mene was a full payment, and Daniel used it to express that Belshazzar’s kingdom was “fulfilled” or all over; a tekel was 1/60 of a mene, indicating that Belshazzar doesn’t weigh very much; and peres, which was half of mene, indicating that his kingdom would be divided in half. Belshazzar’s kingdom would come to an end that very night when his kingdom and the palace would be invaded by Darius and Belshazzar killed. Like the man in the parable whom Jesus called foolish for building bigger grain bins to store his harvest only to have his life taken that very night, so Belshazzar was an even bigger fool, sacrilegiously debauching the things of God not realized that he would be weighed in the balance and found less secure than a feather. Today there are still many who, even though they’re in prominent positions or incredible houses with security details and systems, aren’t really secure at all.
  • How we become truly secure we learn in today’s Gospel. Jesus describes what was coming for his disciples. Just like would happen to him, so they, too, would be seized and persecuted, handed over to religious and civil leaders, thrown in prison, betrayed my family members and friends, hated by all, and some martyred. But Jesus told them not to worry, that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say, and despite their martyrdom, not a single follicle would be destroyed but that all would be restored — even to the baldest of them! — in the resurrection. “By your perseverance,” he stressed, “you would secure your lives.” Real security comes from building our whole life on God and once we do, nothing in all of creation — not persecution, peril or the sword (Rom 8:31-39) — will be able to separate them from God. By persevering in faith, we will be secure now and secure later, even if all fleeting forms of worldly security disappear. This is a lesson we always need to learn. The first Christians suffered so much, including the plundering of their property and even their lives,  as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, because they had a greater security in God. True security in God can’t be given by the world or stolen by those in the world. That’s why the martyrs in every age weren’t afraid even during while suffering torture; and that’s why, in the absence of it, King Belshazzar’s knees were knocking even during a party surrounded by 1000 of his friends and soldiers. The martyrs feared God and were fearless. Belshazzar scorned God and was scared so much that he relieved himself of his sumptuous food and drink on the throne.
  • Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, who on November 27, 1830, appeared to St. Catherine Labouré at the Daughters of Charity Convent on Rue du Bac in Paris, where the pilgrims from this parish and I had the chance to celebrate Mass in September. One of the reasons why we can be secure is because we can always call on God in prayer and depend upon the help and intercession of Mary and all the saints. When Mary appeared to St. Catherine, she asked her to have a medal struck with the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Recourse means to “run-back,” and those who run back to Mary in distress will find her always compassionate, no matter the circumstance, and we can build our faith on the strength of her faith that kept her standing at the foot of the Cross. We can build our security on her security in her Son. In the image that St. Catherine saw and had struck that Mary revealed to her, Mary had rings on her various fingers that were as radiant as the sun, but a few of the rings were dull without light. St. Catherine asked why some were resplendent and others not. Mary replied that the luminous rings symbolized the graces that God had flow through her hands for those who had recourse to her; the dull rings were graces that God would have given through her but people never asked. In our life, we’ve made some of her rings shine and others remain dull because we seek to go about things on our own and not run back to her, including in those times when we’re insecure in the faith. Today’s feast is an opportunity for us to remember this truth and to run back to her help often, not only so that all her fingers shine but so that she can strengthen our faith so that, with her, we might shine forever in the Lord’s kingdom by remaining faithful even and especially when we endure the hardships the Lord describes in today’s Gospel. By our perseverance, like Mary’s, we will secure our lives, in this world and forever.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
DN 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his lords,
with whom he drank.
Under the influence of the wine,
he ordered the gold and silver vessels
which Nebuchadnezzar, his father,
had taken from the temple in Jerusalem,
to be brought in so that the king, his lords,
his wives and his entertainers might drink from them.
When the gold and silver vessels
taken from the house of God in Jerusalem had been brought in,
and while the king, his lords, his wives and his entertainers
were drinking wine from them,
they praised their gods of gold and silver,
bronze and iron, wood and stone.Suddenly, opposite the lampstand,
the fingers of a human hand appeared,
writing on the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace.
When the king saw the wrist and hand that wrote, his face blanched;
his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook,
and his knees knocked.Then Daniel was brought into the presence of the king.
The king asked him, “Are you the Daniel, the Jewish exile,
whom my father, the king, brought from Judah?
I have heard that the Spirit of God is in you,
that you possess brilliant knowledge and extraordinary wisdom.
I have heard that you can interpret dreams and solve difficulties;
if you are able to read the writing and tell me what it means,
you shall be clothed in purple,
wear a gold collar about your neck,
and be third in the government of the kingdom.”Daniel answered the king:
“You may keep your gifts, or give your presents to someone else;
but the writing I will read for you, O king,
and tell you what it means.
You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven.
You had the vessels of his temple brought before you,
so that you and your nobles, your wives and your entertainers,
might drink wine from them;
and you praised the gods of silver and gold,
bronze and iron, wood and stone,
that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence.
But the God in whose hand is your life breath
and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify.
By him were the wrist and hand sent, and the writing set down.

“This is the writing that was inscribed:
MENE, TEKEL, and PERES.
These words mean:
MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it;
TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting;
PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Responsorial Psalm
DN 3:62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67

R. (59b) Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Sun and moon, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“All you winds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Fire and heat, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

Gospel
LK 21:12-19

Jesus said to the crowd:
“They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
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.”