November 16, 2019

OT 33 Sunday (Nov 17th) homily

O. T. XXXIII SUNDAY HOMILY

Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is “The Day of the Lord” or the “Second Coming” of Jesus in glory, as Judge, at the end of the world. The readings warn us about the final days of the world, our own death and the final judgment.

Scripture readings summarized: Malachi, in the first reading, foretells this Day, which will bring healing and reward for the just and punishment in fire for the “proud and all evil doers.” Although St. Paul expected that Jesus would return during his lifetime, he cautions the Thessalonians, in the second reading, against idleness in anticipating the end of the world. Paul advises the Thessalonians that the best preparation for welcoming Jesus in his “Second Coming” is to keep working and doing one’s duties faithfully, as he did. Today’s Gospel passage underlines the truth that the date of the end of the world is uncertain. Signs and portents will precede the end, and the Christians will be called upon to testify before kings and governors. The Good News is that those who persevere in faithfulness to the Lord will save their souls and enter God’s eternal kingdom. Christ’s Second Coming is something to celebrate because he is going to present all creation to his Heavenly Father. That is why we say at Mass, “We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again.” Since Luke’s community had experienced much persecution, today’s Gospel would have given them a cheering reminder: “Don’t give up because God is always with us!”   Jesus’ promise of the protective power of a providing God was meant to encourage His disciples to persevere in their Faith and its practice.  Jesus later adds the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world to prepare His disciples and to remind them to rely upon him for Salvation, not their own power.

Life messages: 1) We must be prepared daily for our death and private judgment. We make this preparation by trying to do God’s will every day, leading holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion, and unconditional forgiveness. In order to do this, we must recharge our spiritual batteries every day by personal prayer, that is, by talking to God, and by listening to Him through reading the Bible. Daily examination of our conscience at bedtime and asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sins of the day will also prepare us to face God any time to give an account of our lives. 2) We need to attain permanence in a passing world by leading exemplary lives. We must remember that our homes, our Churches and even our own lives are temporary. Our greatness is judged by God, not on our worldly achievements, but on our fidelity to our Faith and our practice of that Faith in loving service of others. How our faithfulness is expressed each day is the most important thing.  We are to persevere in our Faith in spite of worldly temptations, attacks on religion and moral values by the atheistic or agnostic media, threats of social isolation, and direct or indirect persecution because of our religious beliefs. Let us conclude this Church year by praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials, for they are essential to our affirmation of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

OT 33 [C] (Nov 17) Mal 3:19-20a; II Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19

Homily starter anecdotes: 81A44A # 1: The theater is on fire: The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, tells the parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each act is more fantastic than the last, and each is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager appears on the stage, apologizing for the interruption. He announces at the top of his voice that the theater is on fire, and begs his patrons to leave the theatre immediately, without causing a commotion. The spectators think that it is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again feverishly implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire races through the whole building engulfing the fun-loving audience with it. “And so,” concludes Kierkegaard, “will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators” (Resource, July/August). Today’s readings warn us about a similar fate if we are not well prepared when the “Day of the Lord” dawns quite unexpectedly, marking the end of the world.

# 2: Be patient and be faithful in waiting for Christ’s Second Coming. Remember Albert Einstein’s words after the Second World War: “As a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it, because the Church alone has had the courage to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, now I praise unreservedly.” The Church had the moral courage to resist a dictator, and it saved the lives of so many Jews because it believed in the assurance given by Jesus in today’s Gospel.

# 3: Beware of false messiahs: In 1978, the whole world was shocked and dismayed by reports from Jonestown, Guyana where the Rev. Jim Jones had led hundreds of people into one of history’s darkest mass-suicides and mass-murders. These were not ignorant, primitive savages in a far-off land. They were American citizens who had fallen under the leadership of a madman. We don’t see many signs, nowadays, of the Moonies. Their founder Rev. Moon and his Unification Church have faded into the background. At one time he boasted considerable political support. He invested heavily in the elections of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Rev. Moon built an empire by putting young people out on the streets selling flowers. Moon preached that a new messiah was soon to come. He claimed that new messiah was a man born in Korea in the 20th century. False messiahs are forever with us. We need not even deal with such self-deluded creatures as mass-murderer Charles Manson who gathered a group of seemingly intelligent young adults as his followers. Manson once said, “My philosophy is: ‘Don’t think.’” That is the philosophy subtly expressed by all false messiahs. Don’t think. Reason is the enemy of all fanatics. But false messiahs do come along occasionally. That is why Jesus warns his followers about false messiahs in today’s Gospel.

Introduction: As the Church year comes to an end, the Sunday readings reflect on the final days of the world, our own death and the Final Judgment.  Today’s theme is “The Day of the Lord” or the “Second Coming” of Jesus in glory as Judge at the end of the world.

Scripture readings summarized: Malachi, in the first reading, foretells this Day, giving the warning that the future, known to God alone, will bring healing and reward for the just who forearm themselves with words and works (peace, justice, mercy and truth), and retribution for the “proud and all evildoers.” Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 98) refers to Jesus in his Second Coming: “The Lord…comes to rule the earth; He will rule the world with Justice and the peoples with equity” (Ps 98:9). The Psalmist offers us a song of joy and praise for the glory of God Who will come at last to rule His world. Although Paul expected to be alive at the return of Jesus, he cautioned the Thessalonians, in today’s second reading, against the idleness with which some of them were anticipating the end, and he encouraged them not to be weary of doing good. He suggested that their best preparation for the future was to devote their attention to present duties, to maintain a holy and wholesome balance between prayer and service, work and play, and to develop enduring family ties and values. Today’s Gospel passage warns us that the date of the end of the world is uncertain.  Signs and portents will precede the end, and the faithful will be called upon to testify before kings and governors.  The Good News, however, is that those who persevere in faithfulness to the Lord will save their souls and enter God’s eternal kingdom. Christ’s Second Coming is something to celebrate, because he is going to present all creation to his Heavenly Father. That is why we proclaim His Second Coming at Mass: “We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again.” For Luke’s community which had experienced much persecution, Jesus’ words about people being “handed over by parents, brothers, relations and friends,” were beginning to come true. They would find, as did Jesus’ original disciples, that Jesus’ promise of the protective power of a providing God through all of this would serve them as a real encouragement to persevere in Faith and its practice: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Jesus also prophesied the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world in order to prepare His original disciples for this more immediate coming disaster and to remind them to rely upon Him for Salvation, not their own power.

First reading: Malachi 3: 19-20 explained: When Judah returned from exile in Babylon, the people and their leaders showed a tendency, which they had absorbed from their long contact with the pagans, to lead loose moral lives.  The priests were irresponsible, ignorant and indulgent leaders, failing to correct abuses (Collegeville Bible Commentary).  Hence, in today’s first reading, the prophet Malachi, in the mid-fifth century (515-458) BC, chided them for their religious impiety, dishonesty, and marriages with pagans, for which they hoped, foolishly, to avoid punishment.  The Lord God, through His faithful prophet, Malachi warned Israel that the day of the Lord was coming shortly, and that He had taken note of the goodness of those who feared Him and would have compassion on them in the Day of His coming. But He would punish the wicked and the proud on the “Day of the Lord by setting them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch.” The image here is that of a blazing oven. For the sinful, the Day will be a day of fiery purification; for the righteous, it will be the Day of healing. Malachi is the very last book of the Old Testament. The Lord God’s final word, that He will send Elijah the prophet to them to give them one last chance at conversion before the Day of the Lord brings Final Judgment, is first fulfilled in John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus, the Messiah, bringing Salvation to the world.

Second reading: II Thes 3:7-12 explained: The earliest Christians expected Jesus to come again soon in His Glory (Parousia), bringing history to its climax with God’s Final Judgment of the living and the dead. Some among the Thessalonians responded to this prospect by abandoning their customary work and leading lives of idleness. They asked themselves, “Why should we spend the small amount of time before the Parousia in hard labor?”  Some of them were more interested in minding other people’s business. Hence, St. Paul corrects them by asking them to imitate his own example of manual work (as a tentmaker or leatherworker of some sort), and preaching, warning them, “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” By his manual labor Paul supported his ministry, preaching his beliefs in word and deed to his fellow workers. We, too, must keep ourselves busy by faithfully discharging our duties and actively bearing witness to Christ through our lives, as we wait in Hope for the second coming of Jesus.

Gospel exegesis: The apocalyptic discourse. Luke 21:5-36 is Luke’s version of what is frequently called “the apocalyptic discourse.”   Early Christian apocalyptic writings were symbolic in nature, giving more an interpretation of future events than an actual prediction. One purpose of apocalyptic literature is to encourage dispirited people by proclaiming that God is in control of history and that punishment of the wicked will come about by God’s doing. A second purpose is to encourage believers to remain faithful through the coming ordeals. A third purpose is to inspire believers to derive all the spiritual good God offers them through life’s inevitable suffering. So the apocalyptic writers encouraged their readers to interpret their sufferings as a sharing in the birth-pangs of the “end.” The believers were assured that if they remained constant in Faith, they could welcome the end of all things and the beginning of eternity with confidence and joy rather than with fear and dread. Jesus addressed His words to His disciples and followers gathered in the Temple for the Passover feast.  Jesus demands of his hearers tenacity of Faith and Hope in spite of their sufferings.  In the liturgical context, the Church aptly places the first part (ending with verse 19), of Luke’s account of Jesus’ end time predictions at the end of the Church year.  [The rest of Luke’s account (vv 20-36), as we have it, includes Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 with His predictions of the end of the world.]

Fulfilment of Jesus’ prediction: To the proud people of Jerusalem, Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple was a great shock, almost blasphemy in fact, because those words sounded like massive distrust of God and an insult to God.  Yahweh would not allow it!  It is not surprising that these words of Jesus were used against him at his trial before the High Priest.  Yet within forty years, the prediction of Jesus was largely fulfilled.  The Temple, originally built by Solomon (960 BC), demolished by the Babylonians (586 BC), rebuilt by Zerubbabel and the returning exiles (536-516 BC), and enlarged and rebuilt by Herod the Great (20 BC– AD 64), was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans.  At the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army, 1.1 million people perished, 97,000 were carried away into captivity, the Temple was demolished by fire, and the priests were murdered.

Call for evangelization by heroic witnessing: The real question of the believers at the end of the first century was: “Now that many of these things have happened, and we are being persecuted, what should we do?”  Luke reminds them of Jesus’ assurance that they were to trust His words against their persecutors and to make use of this opportunity to bear witness to Jesus.  This test of Faith was also an opportunity for them to bear witness to Him before the court officials and the public at large.   Thus, the persecution would become a massive evangelization campaign [21:12-13].  Jesus cautions them against despair in the face of wide-ranging opposition and persecution.  Arrests would be followed by trial and condemnation in religious (Jewish) and civil (Gentile) courts.  Their Faith would serve as a clear witness on the Day of Judgment.  Not only would the individual martyrs see the Lord in Heaven, but the Church would flourish in persecution [21:18-19].

Doomsday prophets miss the message: Jesus refused to predict details or provide clues for the time of the coming calamity. “War, earthquake, pestilence and famine” were traditionally personified as the “Four Apocalyptic Horsemen” who would come to announce the end time judgment.  The late Raymond Brown, a renowned Scripture scholar, suggests that end-of-the-world people perform a valuable service for us. They keep the Second Coming before our eyes. Prophets of doom in every century point to historical calamities (wars and revolts) and cosmic disasters (great earthquakes, famines, pestilence), and “signs in heaven” (like solar eclipses and comets), as signs of the end.  This is a direct contradiction of Jesus’ words.  He tells us not to try to predict the end, but to live loyally and lovingly in situations which, in many cases, will be hostile to the Gospel. Instead of destroying us, persecution and martyrdom will gain us eternal life.  At the end of the discourse, Jesus gives the assurance, “Not a hair from your head will perish” (21:18).  God’s saving purpose will certainly triumph, because, contrary to appearances, He remains firmly in control.  Finally, the way to glory is traveled more often through day-by-day endurance, rather than through isolated acts of heroic virtue. Here is a practical spirituality each of us can live, whatever our current situation may be.

Life messages: 1) We need to be prepared daily for death and judgment. The ideal way to accept Jesus’ apocalyptic message is always to be ready to face our death.   We must live holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion, and unconditional forgiveness, remembering the demands of justice in our day-to-day lives. We must also take time to rest and to pray in order to keep our hearts alive to God’s presence with us and within us. Daily examination of our conscience at bedtime, asking God’s pardon and forgiveness, also prepares us to face God at any time to give an account of our lives.

2) We need to attain permanence in a passing world by leading exemplary lives. Our homes, our Churches and even our own lives are temporary. All our structures are provisional. Our influence has no more claims to permanence than our buildings. Hence, our task is not to build monuments of any kind, but to be faithful to Christ.  How our faithfulness is expressed each day is the most important thing.  We are to persevere in our Faith, despite worldly temptations, attacks on religion and moral values by the atheistic or agnostic media, threats of social isolation, and direct or indirect persecution because of our religious beliefs. Let us conclude this Church year by praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials that are essential to our affirmation of Jesus our Savior.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

1) Judgment Day, Second Coming, WHAT A PHONE BILL! After finishing his homily on the Judgment Day, the preacher started the prayer of mercy. “Oh Lord,” he began. “One of these days we are going to wake up, and it’s going to be DARK everywhere! Deliver us, O Lord.” “Lord, have mercy on us!” responded the congregation. The preacher continued: “Then we are going to pick up the telephone and call Washington, and they are going to say, ‘It’s DARK over here too!'” “Lord, have mercy on us!” responded the congregation.” Then we’re going to pick up the phone and call London, and they are going to say, ‘It’s DARK over here!’ “Lord, have mercy on us!” responded the congregation. “Again, we’re going to pick up the phone and call Moscow, and they are going to say, ‘It’s DARK over here too!” “Lord, have mercy on us!” responded the congregation.” “Then we’re going to pick up the phone…. At this juncture, the church treasurer, who had also been caught up in the fervor of the preacher’s prayer, cried out uncontrollably: “Lord, Lord! What a PHONE BILL!”

2) Teeth will be provided in hell: Grandma told her little grandson: “Be a good boy. At the end of the world all the disobedient and bad people will be cast into fiery hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  The little boy raised an intelligent doubt. “Grandma, you don’t have any teeth and you always quarrel with others. How would you gnash your teeth when you are cast into hell?” Grandma replied: “You naughty boy, don’t you know that teeth will be provided in hell.”

3) End time humor: Humorist Lewis Grizzard writes about a man in his hometown named Luther Gilroy. Luther claimed he was out plowing his field and saw a sign in the sky that said THE END IS NEAR. So, Luther let his mule and his cow out of their pens, gave all his chickens away, and climbed on top of his house to await the end. When it didn’t come, he pouted and refused to come down from the roof. Finally, his wife called the deputy sheriff, who came over and said, “Luther, you idiot, I saw that same sign. It didn’t say, ‘The end is near.’ It said, ‘Go drink a beer.’ Now come down off that roof before you fall off and break your neck.” L/19

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK

1)      New American Bible for your computer desk top for easy reference: http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/

2) Catholic Internet Sources: http://www.catholicsource.net/

3)    My house:  Practical information on protecting families and healing marriages from pornography: http://www.loveisfaithful.com/
4) Video homily: Catholic: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066    Non-Catholic: https://youtu.be/t9Q-0pn8VUo
Movie clip: https://youtu.be/qAzftg21hK0

27- Additional anecdotes

# 1: The end time predictions of scientists: Christians are not the only ones to talk about coming disasters. Years ago, it was the New Age people who were sounding the alarms. Astrologers were talking about a harmonic convergence producing chaos all over the world when the planets aligned August 16, 1987. Nothing happened. In 1979, the fear was of the space satellite, Skylab. It was falling from the sky, NASA warned, but they were unsure where. The Federal Aviation Administration closed airspace; state and local governments went on alert; companies sold helmets. Skylab burned up July 11, 1979, over the Indian Ocean and Australia. No one was hurt. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about the destruction of Jerusalem and the signs preceding the end of the world. (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com)

# 2: “Look Master, what large stones and what large buildings!” The Temple of Jerusalem of Jesus’ time was the third Temple. Solomon had built the first Temple (966 BC) in seven years. It stood for 370 years. It was first looted of all its treasures and gold by Shishak, King of Egypt (I Kg 14:25-26) in 926 BC [Jerusalem Bible]. . In 586 BC, it was sacked and burned by the Babylonians. After the exile, the Temple was rebuilt under the order and patronage of Cyrus, the king of Persia, by Zerubbabel in 516 BC. Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple of Zerubbabel, (20 BC to AD 64). Building upon and extending beyond the foundations of Solomon and Zerubbabel, Herod nearly doubled the area of the Temple Mount, enclosing within the retaining walls an area of 35 acres! According to Josephus, Herod’s 18,000 workmen continued work until AD 63. To enlarge the Temple Mount and to enclose 35 acres, strong retaining walls had to be extended down into the Tyropoean Valley to the west and down Ophel hill to the south. Ashlars, huge building blocks, were quarried, cut, faced and fitted without cement. All were proportionally large, but the largest measures 46 feet long by 10 feet high by 10 feet deep. Weighing 415 tons, it makes the stones of the Egyptian Pyramids – a mere 15 tons – to be as pebbles! [Murray Stein, “How Herod Moved Gigantic Blocks to Construct the Temple Mount,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. VIII, No. 3, Washington, D.C. (May-June, 1981), p. 42.] It was this beautiful Temple which the Roman army, as Jesus had predicted, burnt down on August 28, AD 70 – having first murdered all the Temple priests. For nearly a month, the people of the upper city held out against the siege and the power of Rome. But on September 20 the Romans overran the city, slaughtering the inhabitants and putting the entire city to the torch. Everything happened as Jesus had said. The 40-foot colonnades that surrounded the Temple Mount, the Temple itself, and Herod’s huge portico were all gone. They had been pushed down and pulled over, rolling into the Tyropoean Valley to the west and the Kedron Valley to the east, significantly lifting the levels of both valleys. For the most part, the stones remain to this day right where the Romans left them. Except for the few stones of the Western Wall, often called the Wailing Wall, there was “not one stone left upon another” that was not thrown down. Titus and his legions swept through all of Palestine, razing hundreds of synagogues to ground. (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com)

# 3: “I never unpacked it in the first place.” You may know the story about the little boy who had returned from his first two weeks at summer camp. He showed his mother two badges that he had won: one for making improvements in swimming, the other for naming the most birds on a nature hike. There was a blue ribbon in his pocket signifying a third prize, and his mother asked him about that. “Aw,” he said, “I got that thing for having the neatest packed bag when we were ready to come home.” “I’m proud of you,” his mother said. “No big deal,” he said. “I never unpacked it in the first place.” If we are constantly looking for God to right the world’s wrongs some day in a great cataclysmic conclusion to life on this earth, we may never “unpack our bag” and realize that it is here and now where God has placed us to do our living. (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com)

# 4: Be careful when you try to predict the future. Today’s experts turn out sometimes to be tomorrow’s amateurs. I read recently that when the city fathers of the grand metropolis New York City planned for the future growth of their city, they laid out the streets and numbered them from the center outward. When they began, there were only six or seven streets. In their planning maps, they projected how large they thought the city might grow. Reaching beyond their wildest imagination, they drew streets on the map all the way out to 19th Street. They called it “Boundary Street” because they were sure that’s as large as New York City would become. At last count, the city had reached 284th Street, far exceeding their expectations! (Rev. Adrian Dieleman, http://www.trinitycrc.org/sermons/eph3v20-21.html ). In 1881, the New York City YWCA announced typing lessons for women. Amazingly, angry protests greeted this announcement. Why? Many believed that the female constitution would break down under the strain. Some of you women can remember when girls were only allowed to play half court in basketball for the same reason. Nobody envisioned what today’s women athletes would be capable of. (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com)

# 5: An old Hungarian anecdote.  A pious Hungarian king, finding himself on a certain day depressed and unhappy, sent for his brother, a good-natured, but rather indifferent prince.  To him, the king said: “I am a great sinner and fear to meet God.”  But the prince only laughed at him, treated the matter as a joke and left the royal palace without making any comment. It was a custom in Hungary at that time, that if the executioner sounded a trumpet before a man’s door, it was a signal that the man was to be led forth to execution.  The king sent the executioner in the dead of night to sound the fatal blast before his brother’s door. The prince, awaking from sleep, realized its awful import.  Quickly dressing, he stepped to the door and was seized by the executioner, who dragged him, pale and trembling, into the king’s presence.  In an agony of terror, the prince fell upon his knees before his brother and begged to know in what way he had offended him.  “My brother,” answered the king, “if the sight of a human executioner is so terrible to you, shall not I, having grievously offended God, fear to be brought before the judgment seat of Christ?  Do we not read in the Bible, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’?” (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com)

# 6: The great day in our lives: There is always a great deal of emotion in anticipation of “the day,” whether that be a First Communion day, Graduation day, one’s wedding day, the first day of a new job, opening day at the ballpark or our retirement day—to name but a few important days in the lives of many of us. In such cases, not only is the day enjoyed for itself, it also promises many more wonderful days in the future. On the other hand, there are some days that strike fear and dread in our hearts, such as the day we lose our job, the day of the death of a loved one, the day we are sent out to fight a war. These days thrust us into sadness and struggle with little or no light at the end of the tunnel. The Day of the Lord was always a day of anticipation for the people of ancient Israel. Originally it was perceived as a day of fulfillment. It was the moment in history when all of the promises made by God would come to completion, and the people of God would enjoy them forever, promises of peace and prosperity, of contentment and harmony. But some of the prophets warned that the Day of the Lord would first be a day of suffering or purging, referring to it as the “birth pangs of the Messiah.” Today’s readings focus on the painful aspects of “that day.” (Dianne Bergant). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com)

# 7: Be faithful: Some of you know the story of writer Anne Lamott. When she was twenty-five, her father died after a long struggle with brain cancer. Over the next few years Anne herself began to suffer from an overwhelming sense of desperation and fear, which she tried to suppress with alcohol and pills. Although she was managing to write and publish successful novels at the time, it was clear that her life was spinning out of control. In her memoir, Traveling Mercies, she writes about this dark period of her life. And most importantly she tells how a community of Christian Faith, a neighborhood church called St. Andrew, came to her rescue. In her book she tells the time-honored story of a little girl who was lost. This girl ran up and down the streets of the big town where her family lived, but she couldn’t find a single landmark. She was frightened. Finally, a policeman stopped to help her. He put her in the passenger seat of his car, and they drove around until she finally saw her church. She pointed it out to the policeman, and then she told him firmly, “You can let me out now. This is my church, and I can always find my way home from here.” Anne Lamott writes, “And that is why I have stayed so close to mine because no matter how bad I am feeling, how lost or lonely or frightened, when I see the faces of the people at my church, when I hear their tawny voices, I can always find my way home.” (Anchor, 2000). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 8: Question to Buddha: Rev. Richard J. Fairchild tells the story of a monk who once approached the Buddha and asked: “Do the souls of the righteous survive death?” Characteristically, Buddha gave him no reply.  But the monk persisted. Each day he would repeat the question, and each day he would get silence for an answer, until he could stand it no longer. He threatened to abandon the path to enlightenment unless this crucial question was answered.  Why should he sacrifice everything to live a monastic life, if the souls of the righteous perished with their bodies?  Then Buddha in his compassion spoke. “You are like a man,” he said, “who was dying from a poisoned arrow.  His relatives rushed a doctor to his side.  But the man refused to have the arrow pulled out unless three of his questions were answered. First, about the man who shot him – was he a white man or black?  Second, was he a tall man or a short man?  And third, was he a Brahmin or an outcast?” Many of us are in the same position as that monk. How many of us question God and   refuse to continue in our Faith until all our questions about life after death are answered to our satisfaction?  Jesus’ teaching about the end of the world, God’s judgment of the wicked and the reward of the faithful in today’s readings will avail us nothing, unless we are willing to allow Christ to enter our hearts and minister to us his life-giving word.  We must be willing to allow God to pluck out the arrows that poison our lives before we have all the answers to our questions.  The question we need to ask is not, “Why do the wicked seem to prosper?” but rather, “Will I be saved?” (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 9: It Happened Tomorrow, and Early Edition: Years ago, a film entitled It Happened Tomorrow featured an ambitious business executive who wished that he could buy tomorrow’s newspaper today so as to take financial advantage of his privileged glimpse into the future. Suddenly, an elderly gentleman appeared before him, holding the coveted newspaper. “I’ve decided to grant your wish,” he said. The remainder of the movie details what happened to the businessman as a result of his “future” knowledge. Later a television series, called Early Edition, reprised the premise of the film and featured a young man who received “tomorrow’s paper” daily. As he read of accidents that were yet to happen and disasters that were yet to occur, he sensed a certain responsibility for preventing them by altering the circumstances and/or protecting the people involved. Though such stories are somewhat interesting and attention-grabbing, they are simply imaginative escapes into the world of fiction. We cannot know the future this way, but the future is known—by God to Whom it belongs. He alone is responsible for its unfolding day by day, year by year. We, for our part, are to be responsive to God by being responsible for God’s gifts of the present as detailed in today’s readings. (Patricia Sánchez). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 10: A Church without persecution dies a natural death: The late William Barclay wrote: “The crisis of the present day is not theological: it is ethical. Christian theology is not really under attack, for there are few outside of the Church sufficiently interested in it to assail it.” [William Barclay, The Ten Commandments for Today, (New York, Harper and Row, Publishers).] Gardner C. Taylor comments further: “It is astonishing how much an American family will spend on physical fitness, and how little time or interest or money it will invest in spiritual fitness. It is amazing how much attention parents will give to a balanced diet for a child’s physical growth, and how little attention they will pay to the child’s moral and spiritual growth. Bread for the body, but no food for the soul. Cultivation of the mind, none of the heart.” (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 11: The fall of Berlin Wall: It was on 9 November 1989 that the infamous Berlin Wall came tumbling down. It was a concrete symbol of what Winston Churchill had described as the “Iron Curtain,” which for almost fifty years had divided Europe into two ideologically hostile camps. It was the era of the “Cold War.” Most people then, or at least the more optimistic, believed that someday Europe would be reunited and this wall of shame would come down. But when it happened, it was so sudden that everybody both in the East and the West was taken completely by surprise. Some of the Communist dictators, like Honnecker in East Germany, had not even time to clear their desks and hightail it, before the day of retribution was upon them. Now, so few years later, even souvenir-hawkers cannot find “a single stone left on another” to sell to eager tourists at the annual commemoration. Everything in this world, sooner or later, comes to an end. And the world itself will come to an end. In this penultimate week of the liturgy, the liturgy recalls for us the “last things.”(Biblical IE). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 12: “Give me one more day of life – just one day more!” Charles V was one of the last truly great European Emperors. In the 1500s, he protected Europe from the vicious and tireless attacks of the Turkish Muslim Empire. At the same time, he brought together the leaders of Europe to reestablish political and religious unity among Christians after the revolt of Martin Luther. In the prime of his life, one of his closest and most well-loved advisers, who had served the Emperor since his youth, fell ill. Charles was at his bedside as the man was dying. The Emperor was deeply moved at the man’s suffering and wanted to comfort him. He said, “My friend, you have been a faithful servant all these years. Please, let me now do something for you. Ask anything of me, and I will do it.” The dying man turned his weak eyes to his King, and whispered, “Sire, there is one great favor I desire.” The Emperor was glad at this, and leaned forward, “Tell me,” he said, “What is it?” “Give me one more day of life – just one day more!” Charles’ face fell. He answered simply, “You know that I have not the power.” The man smiled weakly, and said: “Yes, I know. Even the greatest earthly king cannot give life. And now you see how foolish I have been. I served you well all these years, but I gave no thought to my Heavenly King, and now I must go to him with empty hands. Pray for me.” (E- Priest). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 13: The Difference between Christianity and a Football Game: The tendency of popular culture today is to avoid thinking about the last things, the great truths like death and judgment. Popular culture tells us to enjoy ourselves while we can here on earth and not to worry about the bigger story. That is completely backwards. It’s like telling a football player to enjoy his game by sitting on the sidelines and working on a suntan. A football player enjoys the game by playing hard and doing his best to win. He knows that the fourth quarter is right around the corner, and the clock is winding down, and the last minute will soon run out. And when it does, when he makes his way into the locker room – sweaty, bruised, exhausted – he wants only two things: to know that he has won, and to know that he has pushed himself as hard as he could to do his part well. Jesus is reminding us that our lives are like that. They will come to an end. The fourth quarter is on its way. But there is a difference. A football player can give his all individually, and his team can still lose. On his way to the locker room he can be satisfied with his own performance, but disappointed at the outcome. But that’s not the case with us. If we play well, we win – automatically. If a Christian gives his all, if a Christian spends his life fighting to be more like Christ each day, in spite of hardship and persecution, in spite of opposition and enemies, then victory is assured. (E- Priest). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

 

# 14: Charlemagne’s Wisdom: Knowing that judgment is coming sets us free to live a full life, because it puts everything in proper perspective. The Emperor Charlemagne is one of the great figures in the history of western civilization. His empire, though not perfect, was a bright chapter in the dark ages of the barbarian invasions of Europe. He preserved western culture and advanced the cause of Christian civilization, planting seeds of holiness and prosperity that would flourish centuries later. His tomb can still be visited in the German city of Aachen [AH-ken], where his Empire was headquartered back in the 800s. He is buried in the central space beneath the dome of the imperial church there, called Aix-la-Chapelle [eye-lah-shop-ELL]. The burial chamber is a subterranean room. In the middle of the room is a marble chair – a chair on which kings used to be crowned – placed over his grave. On the chair sits a sculpted image of the Emperor, wrapped in his royal robes, with a book of the Gospels open on his lap. There he sits: cold, silent, motionless. The dead man’s finger points to the words of Jesus: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” That was the perspective that made Charlemagne both a great man, great emperor, and also, even more importantly, a great Christian. (E-Priest). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 15: Facing Death for Christ: Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, Christians of all denominations were routinely persecuted for their Faith by the Communist regime. One small group of believers used to meet in a family home every Sunday. They would arrive at different times, to avoid suspicion. On one particular Sunday they were all safely inside the building, with curtains drawn and doors locked. They had been singing and praying for a while when the door burst open and two armed soldiers crashed in. One shouted, “Everybody up against the wall. If you wish to renounce your faith in Jesus Christ, you can leave now and no harm will come to you.” Two people left right away, then a third and fourth straggled out. “This is your last chance!” the soldier warned. “Either turn your back on this Jesus of yours or stay and suffer the consequences!” Two more slipped outside, crying and ashamed. No one else moved. Parents with small children trembling beside them looked down reassuringly. They fully expected to be gunned down on the spot, or imprisoned. After a few moments of silence, the soldiers closed the door. One of them said, “Keep your hands up – but this time in praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters. We, too, are Christians. We were sent to another house Church like this several weeks ago, and we became believers.” The other soldier added, “We are sorry to have frightened those who left, but we have learned that unless people are willing to die for their faith, they cannot be fully trusted.” In times of trouble our Faith is tested, and we have a chance to do for Christ what he did for us: love him to the end. (E- Priest) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

# 16: The Emperor Moth: A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth and took it home to watch the moth come out. One day a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the moth for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. The man thought it was stuck and decided to help. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon so that the moth could get out. Soon the moth emerged, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch, expecting that in time the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would simultaneously contract to its proper size. Neither happened. In fact, that little moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly. The man in his haste didn’t understand that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the moth to get through the tiny opening had a purpose. They force fluid from the body into the wings so that the moth can be ready for flight once it emerges from the cocoon. Just as the moth could only achieve freedom and flight as a result of struggling, we often need to struggle to fulfill our life’s mission. This life on earth, for us and for the Church as a whole, is like the moth’s life in the cocoon. The struggles God permits us have a purpose – by facing them bravely, with Faith and with the help of his grace, we and the Church will become what he created us to be. (E- Priest). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

17) “The hypocrites are gone now. You may begin the service.” The 2000-member church was filled to overflowing capacity one Sunday morning. The preacher was ready to start the sermon when two men, dressed in long black coats and black hats, entered via the rear of the Church. One of the two men walked to the middle of the Church while the other stayed at the back of the church. They both then reached under their coats and withdrew automatic weapons. The one in the middle announced, “Everyone willing to take a bullet for Jesus stay in your seat!” Naturally, the pews emptied, followed by the choir loft. The deacons ran out of the door too. After a few moments, there were about 20 people left sitting in the Church. The preacher was holding steady in the pulpit. The men put their weapons away and said, gently to the preacher, “All right, pastor, the hypocrites are gone now. You may begin the service.” -We should not be so anxious about when the world will end but rather should concern ourselves with the preparation needed for the end of our own individual life. Can we be faithful no matter what??
(Tomi Thomas in Spice Up Your Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

18) The Decay of the best is the worst: Joseph Stalin was the most ruthless dictator of the former Soviet Union. He was the General Secretary of the Communist Party from 1922 to 1953. In 1928, he launched a series of five-year plans for the rapid industrialization and enforced collectivization of agriculture. As a result, more than ten million farmers were killed. He ruthlessly murdered hundreds and hundreds of the intellectuals who opposed him. He, in fact, had murdered more men than that manic Hitler. But the surprising thing is that Stalin as a teenager had joined the seminary to become a priest. He was expelled from it because of his revolutionary ideas. A noble desire went awfully wrong.  A man who desired to save souls became a monster who ruthlessly murdered people in millions. The decay of the best is always the worst. -In today’s Gospel, Jesus foretells the utter ruin and destruction of Jerusalem. Upon the Lord’s visitation, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the Temple authorities rejected Him, and, consequently, destruction visited them. Today, let us look at the great beauty of the Temple, and also consider its ruin and the cause of it.
(John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

19) Film –The Day After: When the movie The Day After was shown on television in 1983, it caused quite a controversy. This was because it was focused on the ultimate what if- the event of a global nuclear war. What if the population of Kansas City is instantly reduced to vaporized silhouettes; what if the blistered wounded are doomed to die; what if some survivors are surrounded by radioactive fallout that settles like a fine white dust all over the earth? The Day After was intended primarily to provoke serious reflection and discussion about nuclear disarmament. But it also provokes questions about our Faith. Would a good God allow such a terrifying evil to happen? Why do we have to die at all? Is there really a resurrection? –Today’s readings suggest some answers to these questions — not in the sense of complete explanations, but in the sense of strengthening our Faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of the Living God. We don’t get a satisfying answer from the Scriptures to the question, “How can a good God allow such terrible evils like the slaughter of the seven sons of the Maccabees family? Or the death of innocent people in terrorist attacks? But we do get an affirmation of our Faith in an afterlife. No matter how terrifying death may be, whether at the hands of terrorists or nuclear weapons, life will be restored. No matter how much destruction a nuclear holocaust may cause, the day after will never be the last day. A new heaven and a new earth will appear because our God is a God of the living and not of the dead. With Christian Faith and Hope we are strong enough to survive any today, and, if need be, any day after. Jesus portrays for us graphically the destruction (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

20) Have you ever tried to make a prediction? Here are some predictions from the past, all from people who were trusted individuals: Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, in 1943 said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Popular Mechanics magazine in 1949 made this prediction: “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.” There was an inventor by the name of Lee DeForest. He claimed that “While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is impossibility.” The Decca Recording Co. made a big mistake when they made this prediction: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” That was their prediction in 1962 concerning a few lads from Liverpool. Their band was called the Beatles. But today’s Gospel presents predictions made by Jesus, many of which have already been fulfilled while the remainder will be fulfilled. As the disciples walked out of the Temple in Jerusalem Jesus paused with his disciples, looked back at the Temple and predicted, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another.” (Fr. T. Kayala). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

21) The Best Conclusion: C. S. Lewis said that when the author appears on the stage, you know the play is over. This is how he understands the doctrine of the Second Coming of our Lord. It means that He who has begun a good work will bring it to the best conclusion of which He is capable. After all, no one has ever claimed that this planet earth was intended to exist forever. In what is called by scientists “the second law of thermodynamics,” it is clearly predicted that the energy supply of this planet will eventually come to an end, which means that a conclusion of life as we know it here is inevitable. The concept of the Second Coming merely affirms that such a conclusion will be purposeful. The drama of history is not going to just fizzle out or end in a whimper! It is going to come to the end and to the kind of climax that He Who conceived the drama wants for it. [Tom M. Garrision, Sermons for Sundays in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany: Building a Victorious Life, (CSS Publishing Company); Gary L. Carver, quoted by Fr. T. Kayala.] (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

22) Witnessing in a time of confusion and uncertainty: Anne Frank was a teenage Jewish girl who lived in Amsterdam during the early years of World War II. When the Germans began rounding up all the Jews, she and her family “went into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father worked” [Wikipedia], and lived there, haunted by the constant fear of detection. So it was anything but a normal existence of the young teenage girl and her terrified family. During that time, Anne Frank kept her famous diary, which her father found only after the war had ended. In it the young girl frankly expressed her thoughts and feelings with a maturity way beyond her years. So inspiring was that diary that it has been translated into many languages and continues to inspire people of all ages even today, over seventy years after it was written. In one remarkable passage, Anne Frank says: “It’s twice as hard for us young people to hold our ground, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God. It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart. I see the world being turned into a wilderness; I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too; I can feel the suffering of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will all come right, that this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” In spite of her hope and optimism, poor Anne did not live to see her dream fulfilled. In 1944, she and her family were found, arrested, and she and her sister Margot were imprisoned in the horrific Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, where the Jews were exterminated, and died there, probably in February, 1945, according to recent scholars writing in 2015 [Wikipedia]. What sustained Anne Frank during her ordeal was her Faith in God and in humanity. – Living an authentically Christian life today certainly poses a tough challenge; but of one thing we are absolutely assured, and that is our victory through our Faith in and our commitment to Christ Jesus. In the words of the famous freedom-fighter Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “A person without fear is no hero; the person who overcomes fear is” (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

23) Childhood’s End is a science fiction novel written by Sir Arthur C Clarke. In this novel, he describes that humanity is visited by aliens who resemble Satan. The aliens, named in the novel as the Overlords, are seen in the role of “heralds” for a god-like force named the Overmind. A transformation occurs in the last human generation, which ultimately merges with this Overmind, resulting in the destruction of the earth and the solar system. All the religions have their own beliefs about the end of the world, the triumph of good over evil and Judgment Day. In Christianity, the End Times are often depicted as a time of tribulations that precedes the Second Coming of Jesus, when Jesus will usher in the Kingdom of God and bring an end to suffering and evil. In Islam, the “Day of Resurrection” or “the Day of Judgment”, Allah’s final assessment of humanity, is preceded by the end of the world. In Judaism the term “End of Days” is taken as a reference to the Messianic era and the Jewish belief in the coming of Messiah. In the First Reading from the Book of Malachi, we heard the Lord say, “‘See, the day is coming.” (Fr. Bobby Jose). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

24) A Shining Witness: Shahbaz Bhatti was born to Catholic parents in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. His father was an army officer and then became a teacher like his mother. The couple had six children, five boys and one girl. His father, who died after a protracted illness, was the main source of strength for Shahbaz. In 2002 Shahbaz formed the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance and became its first leader. He also joined Benazir Bhutto’s Party, and such was the respect in which he was held that he was appointed Minorities Minister that same year. In his acceptance speech he said he was accepting the office, “to help the oppressed, down-trodden and marginalized, and to send a message of hope to the people living a life of disappointment, disillusionment and despair.” He went on, “Jesus is the nucleus of my life, and I want to be his true follower through my actions by sharing the love of God with poor, needy and suffering people.” And he was as good as his word. Christians make up only 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s 185 million people. He decided to campaign against the country’s draconian blasphemy law, knowing that in all probability it would cost him his life. It was his defense of one woman in particular, Mrs. Bibi, that sealed his death warrant. Mrs. Bibi was falsely accused of insulting Mohammed, and was sentenced to death by hanging. Bhatti’s support for Mrs. Bibi was the last straw for his enemies. After a visit to his elderly mother, his body was riddled with bullets in Islamabad on March 2, 2011. He was only 42. Later a video he had made in view of such an eventuality was released. In it he said, “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to protect their rights. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.” Everybody loves life. Bhatti loved life too, but he did not cling to it at all costs. For him the real life was eternal life. Faith in eternal life enabled him to sacrifice his life for Christ.
(Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

25) Never give up: When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they immediately attempted to suppress the Catholic Church. Over the course of the next several years, they killed a third of the Polish clergy and outlawed Faith education. One Polish layman, Jan Tyranowski, decided to do something. He began a secret group, called the Living Rosary, to instruct people in their faith. He faced numerous obstacles, including the certainty of execution if he were discovered. However, he persevered, and, over the course of time, 10 of the young men who attended these groups became priests. One of those priests is known to history as Saint John Paul II. Imagine if Jan Tyranowski had given up. Imagine how different the world might be today without Saint John Paul II. In the same way, our holiness isn’t a matter of indifference. A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying. And that trying can change the world. (E-Priest). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

 

26) Perseverance pays off: Michael Jordan is considered one of the best basketball players in history. However, at one point in his career, he decided that his free-throw shooting wasn’t as good as it needed to be. He had already cemented his status as the greatest player of his generation, and it would have been easy to let that flaw slide. However, Jordan decided not to ignore it. He committed to making 500 free-throws before he left the gym after each Bulls practice. Not shooting 500 free-throws. Making 500 free throws! The dedication paid off. Michael Jordan finished his career as an 84% free-throw shooter. He persevered. Knowing that judgment is coming sets us free to live a full life, because it puts everything in proper perspective. (E-Priest). (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com).

27) Charlemagne’s wisdom: The Emperor Charlemagne is one of the great figures in the history of western civilization. His empire, though not perfect, was a bright chapter in the dark ages of the barbarian invasions of Europe. He preserved western culture and advanced the cause of Christian civilization, planting seeds of holiness and prosperity that would flourish centuries later. His tomb can still be visited in the German city of Aachen [AH-ken], where his Empire was headquartered back in the 800s. He is buried in the central space beneath the dome of the imperial church there, called Aix-la- Chapelle [eye-lah-shop-ELL]. The burial chamber is a subterranean room. In the middle of the room is a marble chair – a chair on which kings used to be crowned – placed over his grave. On the chair sits a sculpted image of the Emperor, wrapped in his royal robes, with a book of the Gospels open on his lap. There he sits: cold, silent, motionless. The dead man’s finger points to the words of Jesus: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” That was the perspective that made Charlemagne both a great man, great emperor, and also, even more importantly, a great Christian. (E-Priest) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com). L/19

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Related image

Temple of Jerusalem renovated by King Herod