33rd Sunday of the Year C (14 Nov 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Single or Double?
As it nears its end the liturgical year reminds us that more awaits us beyond our lives on earth. In our tradition this more registers as judgment. Prophet Malachi used the images of a blazing oven for the ungodly, and a sun of justice for god-fearers and the people of the covenant alike.
You and I are not well disposed to judgment. The reasons are many. Among them we, young and old alike, allow ourselves to accommodate to our feel-good culture more than to the prophetic tradition and to the gospel of Jesus, prophet in deed and word. That Jesus continued to reveal the prophetic tradition as well as to speak of judgment did not stop people from seeking him, coming to him and begging his mercy and kindness, which were the divine mercy and loving kindness before the beginning.
That is easy to forget, and today’s gospel selection doesn’t remind us of the many who sought Jesus and his care. Like the people standing with Jesus in the temple, we may be distracted more by the noble beauty of our surroundings than by the suffering beyond walls of church and borders of city, state and nation. Distraction of this kind easily leads to deception. Jesus warned those with him in the temple, “See that you not be deceived.”
Deception involves duplicity. Fraud describes well the doubleness of untruth. For example someone tells another a thing will clean, and the person finds it smears dirt and makes a blouse worse than before. Many messages our culture offers are like that, saying this thing or this activity offers happiness, when what they offer is only a short-lived high and not long-lasting contentment, peace of mind and stability of soul.
To expose the double messages with which our culture assaults us from our sleeping to our waking hours doesn’t trash culture’s noble contributions nor any created thing given us to help us love God and others more freely. To expose the double messages of our culture is in sync with the prophetic tradition, from Moses to Malachi to Jesus and the apostles, and reminds us that our Creator and Redeemer is the source of all we are, all we have, all we have done and will do to glorify Jesus and his gospel with our lives.
What are we to do? Jesus again told us. If a doubleness, a duplicity and deceit lay in many messages our culture gives and in what individual prophets of our culture extol, then we may find singleness of truth in persevering in our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus. Jesus said to those distracted by passing things, even the sacred things adorning the temple and the more sacred human bodies among whom they lived, “[Fix your sights on what endures, for] by your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Jesus’ description of events that would follow his death and resurrection and dog his disciples to our present day describe—almost define—to persevere. To persevere means to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little prospect of success.
Our culture as well as our personal inclinations often do not consider difficulties as doorways to opportunities for greater life; also, they share a false belief that we can succeed at everything. The dramatic, out-of-our-control imagery of the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of Advent invites us to walk inside the prophetic tradition calling us to single-hearted relationship with our Creator and Redeemer, the Creator of all and Savior of all. The dramatic, out-of-human-control imagery of the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of Advent challenges us, each one, to be prophets who make divine mercy and loving kindness present as we were baptized to do. Each Catholic is baptized to be hands and feet, ears and mouth and heart of Jesus today.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, compose yourself in the Trinity’s creative love. Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus. In your words speak to Jesus: praise him for all the ways he offers himself to you—in the sacraments, in his word, in love received and given, even under the guise of suffering stranger and friend; ask Jesus for the grace to persevere in his many presences and to reveal him more energetically by your life. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, on earth as it is in heaven, on our lips are not only about his Father’s limitless power and presence. On earth as it is in heaven is our plea to focus more with the vision of the Trinity and their enduring life even as we now see darkly and do not know completely.
Wiki-images from Brooklyn Museum collection of Tissot's Disciples Admiring Buildings of the Temple; and of Wolfgang Sauber's detail of Last Judgment are used according the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.