Weak or Strong Foundations, 34th Tuesday (I), November 24, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Andrew Dung Lac and Companions, Martyrs
November 24, 2015
Dan 2:31-45, Dan 3:47-61, Lk 21:5-11

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today, there’s a focus on foundations. In the first reading, we have the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, that none of his magicians, sorcerers, or others could interpret. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t reveal what he had seen and no one could interpret. God had revealed a similar dream to Daniel as well as its interpretation and so Daniel asked to be introduced into the king’s presence and properly interpreted the dream. The king saw a large and bright statue with a head of pure gold, the torso silver, the belly and thighs bronze, the legs iron and the feet partly iron and partly clay. At the end of the dream the king saw a stone that was thrown from a mountain without a hand that rendered the entire statue to dust. Daniel said that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was the gold head. He would be surpassed by the Persians (the silver torso), who themselves would be defeated by the Greeks (bronze). The Romans (iron) would come next, as strong as iron, but eventually their kingdom would have some weaknesses (feet half of clay). The stone that would come from above to pulverize the Romans would be the “stone rejected by the builders,” Christ himself, the Cornerstone. That’s what we celebrate during this week of Christ the King. Christ didn’t establish an earthly kingdom — his kingdom is not of this world — but the kingdom he did establish is the everlasting one that will know no end. But we know that there are three different spiritual interpretations of Sacred Scripture: the Christological, moral and anagogical (how it relates to the last things). And we recognize that if we have feet of clay, no matter how strong we are in other parts of our life, everything can come down. We need to look to our foundation.
  • Similarly in the Gospel, Jesus describes how the temple itself would be destroyed such that “there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” That’s because for many Jews the Temple had become an idol. Rather than a place of true encounter with God, they had perverted it to a den of thieves. They were not willing to grasp that that Temple was provisional until Christ the true Temple, the Messiah, came. There foundation was built on the temple rather than on the God worshipped in the Temple. We can similarly have our own religious idols that rather than bringing us to God take us away. There are Catholics who if their Church is closed, they stop practicing the faith, as if the Church building, rather than God himself who dwells within the Church, was really the most important thing of all. Others make the liturgy an idol, treating the most minute change of a rubric as if it’s as bad as cold-blooded murder and exalting the sign over the signified to such a degree that there are Catholics who refuse even to accept the new order of the Mass after 46 years. Jesus wants to smash all our idols so that he can help us build our entire lives on a firm foundation.
  • And what is that foundation? We see it in St. Matthew’s parallel version of today’s Gospel. After he describes what will happen at the end of time he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” He wants us to build our lives on his word as the foundation of rock that will keep us secure even when the earthquakes, wars, insurrections, famines and plagues happen. Some of those who built their lives on Christ in this way, who entered securely into communion with him who is the true temple, who allowed all the dross to be burned away so that they were like purified, were the martyrs. Today we celebrate St. Andrew Dung Lac and his 116 companions, just 117 of the estimated 130,000 Vietnamese Catholics who gave their lives for Christ between the 17th and 19th centuries. St. Andrew was a teenage catechist who was eventually ordained and was tireless in his preaching and ministry of baptism, exhorting others to fidelity always. He himself, like so many of those to whom he ministered, was captured and sentenced to death. The tortures suffered by the Vietnamese Catholics are among the worst recorded. Their limbs were hacked off joint by joint, their flesh was torn off with red hot tongs, they were drugged, caged, and exposed to many indignities. They were commonly branded on the face with the words “ta dao,” which means “sinister religion,” but none of that was able to knock them off of Christ the Cornerstone. One of the Vietnamese martyrs was St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh who wrote a letter to the students of the Seminary of Ke-Vinh in 1843. His words have become famous because Pope Benedict XVI featured them in Spe Salvi as a description of Christian hope, the hope that comes from knowing that Christ is with us, that we are solidly built on him. St. Paul wrote, “I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises, for his mercy is for ever. The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone—Christ is with me. Our master bears the whole weight of the cross, leaving me only the tiniest, last bit. He is not a mere onlooker in my struggle, but a contestant and the victor and champion in the whole battle. Therefore upon his head is placed the crown of victory, and his members also share in his glory. … Beloved brothers, as you hear all these things may you give endless thanks in joy to God, from whom every good proceeds; bless the Lord with me, for his mercy is for ever. … I write these things to you in order that your faith and mine may be united. In the midst of this storm I cast my anchor toward the throne of God, the anchor that is the lively home in my heart. … Come to my aid with your prayers, that I may have the strength to fight according to the law, and indeed to fight the good fight and to fight until the end and so finish the race. We may not again see each other in this life, but we will have the happiness of seeing each other again in the world to come, when, standing at the throne of the spotless Lamb, we will together join in singing his praises and exult for ever in the joy of our triumph. Amen.”
  • Today we come to Mass to build ourselves anew on Christ the cornerstone. We come to allow him to make us strong not with gold, silver, bronze or iron, but with his own trust in the Father, with his own power of love, with his own body and blood, as he seeks to make us into a temple that will never be destroyed and takes us united with him to the celestial Jerusalem to rejoice with Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, Andrew Dung Lac and all the saints.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Dn 2:31-45

Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar:
“In your vision, O king, you saw a statue,
very large and exceedingly bright,
terrifying in appearance as it stood before you.
The head of the statue was pure gold,
its chest and arms were silver,
its belly and thighs bronze, the legs iron,
its feet partly iron and partly tile.
While you looked at the statue,
a stone which was hewn from a mountain
without a hand being put to it,
struck its iron and tile feet, breaking them in pieces.
The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once,
fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer,
and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace.
But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain
and filled the whole earth.“This was the dream;
the interpretation we shall also give in the king’s presence.
You, O king, are the king of kings;
to you the God of heaven
has given dominion and strength, power and glory;
men, wild beasts, and birds of the air, wherever they may dwell,
he has handed over to you, making you ruler over them all;
you are the head of gold.
Another kingdom shall take your place, inferior to yours,
then a third kingdom, of bronze,
which shall rule over the whole earth.
There shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron;
it shall break in pieces and subdue all these others,
just as iron breaks in pieces and crushes everything else.
The feet and toes you saw, partly of potter’s tile and partly of iron,
mean that it shall be a divided kingdom,
but yet have some of the hardness of iron.
As you saw the iron mixed with clay tile,
and the toes partly iron and partly tile,
the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.
The iron mixed with clay tile
means that they shall seal their alliances by intermarriage,
but they shall not stay united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
In the lifetime of those kings
the God of heaven will set up a kingdom
that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people;
rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms
and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.
That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain
without a hand being put to it,
which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold.
The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future;
this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure.”

Responsorial Psalm Daniel 3:57, 58, 59, 60, 61

R. (59b) Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“You heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“All you hosts of the Lord, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.

Alleluia Rv 2:10c

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain faithful until death,
and I will give you the crown of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 21:5-11

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
Martyrs_of_Vietnam