Sunday Sermon for November 14, 2021, the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32
Next week marks the end of the Church year, therefore, the readings reflect the theme of the end. In the Gospel, our Lord makes a statement that causes confusion to many. After telling His disciples about the signs that will occur before the Second Coming, Jesus says: “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” Obviously, neither the Second Coming nor the end of the world took place before that generation passed away.
Many have provided some very imaginative interpretations of this passage, but inevitably they have all failed. The fact is that what our Lord spoke was fulfilled within that generation; however, it will be fulfilled again, and in an even fuller way, at the end of the world. In the time between the generation to whom our Lord spoke and the end of the world, these words are also being fulfilled.
Our Lord’s words were originally fulfilled in the year 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. It is of interest to know that the ancient Jewish people believed Jerusalem to be symbolic of the whole world. Within Jerusalem was the Temple, which they saw as a symbol of Israel. Within the Temple was the Holy of Holies which they saw as being symbolic of the Holy City, Jerusalem (in contrast to the secular city of Jerusalem).
For this reason, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (and the Temple within it), it was not only a fulfillment of what our Lord spoke, but it was also a prefiguration of what will happen at the end of the world when our Lord’s words will be fulfilled completely. In the meantime, since His words are being fulfilled during the time between their initial and ultimate fulfillment, we are seeing them being fulfilled in our own day.
However, what we all need to focus on is not so much the present situation, as the future situation regarding our personal salvation. In the first reading Daniel tells us that some will rise and be an everlasting horror and disgrace while others will shine like the splendor of the firmament. I like to use the mnemonic device to make the point: at the resurrection, everyone will rise from the dead, some will be glorified and some will be horrified. There will be no in between; it is one or the other. There are only two options for where we will spend eternity; in one we will be glorified, in the other we will be horrified.
God desires the salvation of all and He offers the grace of salvation to everyone. This is why St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that Jesus made one sacrifice for sin and through that sacrifice He has provided the means to make perfect forever those who are being consecrated to Him. At the same time, our Lord waits until His enemies are made His footstool. Our Lord offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, but each of us is given the freedom to choose whether or not we will accept His offering.
If we accept what our Lord has done for us and live our lives in the manner of people who are redeemed by His Blood, then we will be made perfect; we will shine like the stars in the firmament. But if we choose not to live for Him, we will be crushed under His feet; we will be an everlasting horror and disgrace.
As we look at the signs our Lord described, we should be able to see that they are moving quickly to a fulfillment. I do not think it is the end of the world, but the end of an era. Similar to what happened in Jerusalem in the year 70, what is coming to our world in the relatively near future will also serve as a foreshadowing of what will happen when the end does come. That time will be a time of distress worse than the world has ever known. This is because the saints of that time will need to be made perfect before the end arrives; we still have the opportunity to be purified in Purgatory. So, while we are experiencing some distress that will continue to intensify, it is not nearly what will be experienced by the people who will be alive at the end of the world.
Regardless, the choice we all must make is identical. It is the choice for or against the Lord. It is not about giving lip service or believing in a generic way, it is about accepting Who Jesus is, what He did for us, and living by His teaching. Doing this faithfully to the end of our lives will ensure that we will be glorified and shine forever like the splendor of the firmament!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.