Standing Erect and Raising our Heads to our Redeemer and King, 34th Friday (I), December 1, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
December 1, 2017
Dan 7:2-14, Dn 3:75-81, Lk 21:29-33

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel, Jesus gives the response to everything he has been saying throughout the week. He has spoken with frightening images of what is to come: wars, insurrections, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, awesome and mighty signs from the sky, signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, terrible calamities and wrathful judgments, persecutions from synagogues, kings and governors, betrayals by parents, siblings and friends, being hated by all, some of us being put to death. It might seem all straight straight out of a horror movie. But Jesus tells us not to be afraid, that he will send the Holy Spirit to us at that time so that we might give witness, so that we might persevere and secure our lives, so that we might not follow those saying “The time has come” and “I am he,” so that we might stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand, so that we, seeing the signs of this like a fig tree in bloom, might recognize that the “kingdom of God is near” and build our lives on Jesus’ words, which he tells us today, “will not pass away,” so that, as he’ll tell us tomorrow, we may “not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties” and be caught “by surprise like a trap,” but so that be may be “vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” Apocalyptic preachers are always trying to interpret the images Jesus uses to talk about the parousia happening immediately, or to find precise historical referents (like for example the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD), but the images that Jesus has been using really occur, in some form or another, in every age, so that, in every age, we might respond to everything but standing erect and raising our heads to the Redeemer, to the King, coming.
  • In the first reading, we have a very similar message given in perhaps even scarier imagery. Daniel saw a vision of a stirred up sea from which emerged “four immense beasts,” one like a lion with eagle’s wings, standing like a man with a human mind; another like a bear with three tusks among teeth with the command to “devour much flesh”; a third like a leopard with wings like a bird with four heads and dominion; and a fourth, unlike anything to which it could be compared, “terrifying, horrible and of extraordinary strength” with “great iron teeth” to devour and crush and trampled, with ten horns and and 11th with eyes and a mouth that took the place of three and spoke arrogantly. What do these refer to? There could be — and have been — multiple interpretations, but I think that the most likely is that these images refer to the way human beings, and the institutions they’ve been, can sometimes behave like ferocious animals to other human beings, to devour people. We’ve seen it with Attila the Hun, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, with serial killers, various sadistic tribes and more. With the papal visit to Myanmar, greater attention has been brought to the brutality of the Burmese army in general, but particularly toward the Rohingya in Rahkine State. We also are now well aware of the diabolical savagery of ISIS and other terrorists.
  • In response to this ferocity of humans devouring other human beings, Daniel sees two other visions. The first is of an “Ancient One” with white clothing and hair, sitting on a throne made of flames with burning wheels and surging streams of fire flowing from where he sat as he was ministered to by “thousands upon thousands” and “myriads upon myriads.” This is, for us as Christians, an image of God the Father, white with holiness, white hot with the fire of his love who would take personality in the Holy Spirit. And then Daniel saw “one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven,” who received from the ancient one everlasting dominion, glory and indestructible kingship,” clearly an image of Christ himself. When the High Priest Annas asked him during his trial,” Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?,” Jesus replied, “I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk 14:61-62). Jesus is the fulfillment of the vision of Daniel, who would receive everlasting dominion, glory and indestructible kingship, something we mark in this week of Christ the King. But as we see, in Jesus’ first coming, he did not appear on the clouds of heaven. He was the surging stream of fire coming from God the Father to set the world ablaze, but his fire was hidden under his humanity, at least to many. But nevertheless, in the midst of all of the beasts, all the ferocity, came one who was meek and humble of heart. We saw the beasts throughout his public ministry and particularly on Holy Thursday night and Good Friday, and yet the Redeemer was still there. We’re called to look up and see him, and follow him, and give him the homage he is due, and base our life on the rock of his words that will never pass away.
  • The best teacher we have to do this is the Blessed Mother. We’re now in the second day of the novena to her Immaculate Conception, and she teaches us how to let our whole existence flow in accordance with the word of God announced by the Angel and enfleshed by her Son. She shows us in the midst of the horror of the beasts of Herod at the time of the Holy Innocents, to keep our eyes fixed on the Redeemer whose redemption is always close at hand. She shows us how to give glory and eternal praise to the “Ancient One” by uniting ourselves to the “Son of Man coming on the clouds.”
  • And the best occasion we have to do this is here at Mass. In the midst of all the continuing ferocity in the world, in the context of our petitions for all those experiencing wars, insurrections, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, awesome and mighty signs from the sky, signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, terrible calamities and wrathful judgments, persecutions from synagogues, kings and governors, betrayals by parents, siblings and friends, ubiquitous hatred, and martyrdom, we are called to look and see Christ coming to us, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and seeks to bring us, with his Mother, to join the “thousands upon thousands” and “myriads upon myriads” before the fiery throne of the Ancient One!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 DN 7:2-14

In a vision I, Daniel, saw during the night,
the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea,
from which emerged four immense beasts,
each different from the others.
The first was like a lion, but with eagle’s wings.
While I watched, the wings were plucked;
it was raised from the ground to stand on two feet
like a man, and given a human mind.
The second was like a bear; it was raised up on one side,
and among the teeth in its mouth were three tusks.
It was given the order, “Up, devour much flesh.”
After this I looked and saw another beast, like a leopard;
on its back were four wings like those of a bird,
and it had four heads.
To this beast dominion was given.
After this, in the visions of the night I saw the fourth beast,
different from all the others,
terrifying, horrible, and of extraordinary strength;
it had great iron teeth with which it devoured and crushed,
and what was left it trampled with its feet.
I was considering the ten horns it had,
when suddenly another, a little horn, sprang out of their midst,
and three of the previous horns were torn away to make room for it.
This horn had eyes like a man,
and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.
As I watched,
Thrones were set up
and the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was snow bright,
and the hair on his head as white as wool;
His throne was flames of fire,
with wheels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended him.
The court was convened, and the books were opened.
I watched, then, from the first of the arrogant words
which the horn spoke, until the beast was slain
and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up.
The other beasts, which also lost their dominion,
were granted a prolongation of life for a time and a season.
As the visions during the night continued, I sawOne like a son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.

Responsorial Psalm DN 3:75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81

R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“You springs, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!

Alleluia LK 21:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Stand erect and raise your hands
Because your redemption is at hand.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”