Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Francis Xavier Parish, Acushnet, MA
Friday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Catharine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr
November 25, 2016
Rev 20:1-4.11-21:2, Ps 84, 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:
- Throughout this week, in the Book of Revelation and in the Gospel, we have been encountering frightening images of what is to come. Jesus has spoken of 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. Revelation spoke today of the dragon or ancient serpent that is the Devil or Satan being released, going out to the four corners of the earth with a number of demons whose number is like the sand of the sea, surrounding the campy of the holy ones and the beloved city.
- Why do we see all of this, straight from what might seem a horror movie? The answer is not to frighten us but precisely so that we will not “die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.” Rather it’s to make us humble and strengthen us. 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.”
- Like a good teacher who tells his students precisely what will be on the challenging final exam, like a good coach who prepares his team for everything the opponents will bring on the field, like a superb general who trains his soldiers for what real war is like so that they’re able to be brave at the moment of contest, Jesus not only tells us what is coming but gives us the means by which to be ready, strong, persevering and successful when that moment happens. But he wants us to receive that help. He wants us to spend our times not in long lines on Black Friday to purchase fleeting gifts, but patiently and persevering seeking to give others the gift of faith, pass on to them at Christmas and other times the words that will not pass away and will lead to eternal life, to help them recognize that “here God lives among his people,” and help them come to live with him. He wants us to see that he has opened the Book of Life for us and wants to lead us to sign our name in that Book forever. The Church exists, this parish exists, precisely to form us to be vigilant, ready and prayerful for these events. The Church, in another words, exists to form us to be saints, to prepare us to be witnesses, even to be martyrs, if and when our time comes.
- That’s why the great saints are always inspirations for us. They weren’t born on Krypton like Superman or Paradise Island like Wonder Woman, but on planet earth, with all of our same vulnerabilities and weaknesses. They were subject to similar temptations, fears, and problems just like we are. But they all corresponded to the help God gives to respond faithfully to God when the trials foretold by Jesus came. Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Catharine of Alexandria, the very influential early virgin martyr who, according to the legend of her martyrdom, triumphed by her intelligence over the emperor Maxentius and 50 of the greatest philosophers he had in his court, converted members of his family and others, and showed by her courage in the face of threats, torture and death that nothing could get her to be terrified, nothing could get her to be deceived by the seductions of power and fame. She was eventually killed by being crushed by a spiked wheel before she was beheaded. The virgin martyrs were always particular inspirations because at that time in the Roman empire there was a misogynist expectation that women would faint at the sight of blood or threat of torture, but instead we see them stare down sadistic executions and show courage few gladiators would when they were tortured. They were able to be so strong because of their faith, a faith that led them to entrust themselves to Christ the Bridegroom and to know that at the very moment of their death would be their birth into eternal life with him. We prayed in the opening prayer of this Mass that God would grant us through St. Catharine’s intercession to “be strengthened in faith and constancy” so that we may “spend ourselves without reserve” for Christ and the Church. The type of faith and constancy we see in her is what God wants to give us, if only we respond to him with persevering faith like she did. Today as we prepare as a Bride to receive in Holy Communion the eternal Bridegroom, the stronger man who binds Satan for “a thousand years” and throws him into the abyss, we rejoice that “here,” within us through Holy Communion, “God lives among us people,” strengthening us on the inside to stand together with the Son of Man in every tribulation as we cling on the inside to his words and the Word made Flesh that will never pass away!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 RV 20:1-4, 11—21:2
holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain.
He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent,
which is the Devil or Satan,
and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss,
which he locked over it and sealed,
so that it could no longer lead the nations astray
until the thousand years are completed.
After this, it is to be released for a short time.Then I saw thrones; those who sat on them were entrusted with judgment.
I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded
for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God,
and who had not worshiped the beast or its image
nor had accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands.
They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it.
The earth and the sky fled from his presence
and there was no place for them.
I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne,
and scrolls were opened.
Then another scroll was opened, the book of life.
The dead were judged according to their deeds,
by what was written in the scrolls.
The sea gave up its dead;
then Death and Hades gave up their dead.
All the dead were judged according to their deeds.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire.
(This pool of fire is the second death.)
Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life
was thrown into the pool of fire.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Responsorial Psalm PS 84:3, 4, 5-6A AND 8A
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
R. Here God lives among his people.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. Here God lives among his people.
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed the men whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.
R. Here God lives among his people.
Alleluia LK 21:28
Stand erect and raise your heads
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.”