The message from today's readings, especially the first two readings, is very clear. God wants us to be joyful, to be filled with joy, and not a joy that's just a passing emotion that comes and goes in a few moments or so, but a joy that is deep, a joy that is lasting and that settles into our spirit. It might seem almost impossible that we could experience such joy, and yet if we listen to those lessons, it's clear that that is what God is telling us -- to be joyful.
The Peace Pulpit
I'm sure that all of us have noticed that at times people seem to think that what Jesus taught, what he preached, was not for our time and place, not the real world in which we live -- a world where evil so often seems to have the upper hand, a world where the moral order is shattered, a world where there is hatred, so much violence. The message of Jesus, we think, those values that he taught, they could not be for now. They must be for later, the afterlife. That's when you can really love your enemies. Do good to those who hurt you and so on.
It seems pretty clear to me that we need this season of Advent -- a season when we can begin to stir up within our hearts and our spirits a very powerful spirit of hope, a spirit of encouragement, a spirit of joy. This, in fact, is what Advent does bring into our lives -- hope and joy. We need it, I think, at this time especially, because so many people seem to be discouraged with what is going on in the world and what is going on in our church.
We may not have adverted to it, but we should notice that the feast we celebrate today is unusual, even unique I would say, because it's a feast that celebrates one of the titles of Jesus. There's no other feast that does this. We could have, for example, a feast of Jesus the Prophet, or Jesus the Teacher, or Jesus the Shepherd, but we don't do that for reasons that are not totally clear, I guess. We chose the one title that Jesus rejected, and so it's a challenge to reflect on this feast and the scriptures that we have for this feast. And to have drawn forth this truth that is very important for us.
I think most of us experience the readings of today -- and it always happens at the end of the church year -- as being kind of, well, frightening or perhaps kind of dismal. Even the kind of gloomy day that we have seems to fit in with the readings. And we find them puzzling, I think, and so perhaps the first thing we need to remind ourselves of as we try to reflect on these readings is that the Gospel reading and the passage from the Book of Daniel are both what we would call apocalyptic writings -- like the Book of the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament.
Because Bishop Gumbleton was out of town November 12, we do not have Special NCR coverage notice:
a homily to post this week. Please return next week to read the bishop's latest homily.
Special NCR coverage notice:
Every week as we try to listen deeply to God's Word it's important to put the passage that we listen to on a particular Sunday into the larger context of the gospel and that's especially important today if we're really going to respond in an adequate way to what Jesus is teaching us. As I reminded you before we began the gospel, this has been a continuous reading of Mark's Gospel, and we've traveled with Jesus on this last journey to Jerusalem. Along the way he kept teaching us how to be a disciple.
So today as we listen to the gospel, we realize that we are coming to the end of this last journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. For six weeks now we have been listening to Jesus teach his disciples -- teach us -- as he walked this final journey. Jericho is the last stop before they get to Jerusalem where it will all happen as Jesus had told them. He will be handed over to enemies, people who hate him. They'll torture him, nail him to the cross, crucify him, but then on the third day he'll rise again.
For six Sundays now, we have been traveling together with Jesus and the disciples as they make this journey to Jerusalem, and Jesus has been instructing them on what it means to be a disciple and so of course that instruction is for us. We are the community of the disciples of Jesus. That's what the church is; that's what our parish is -- a community of disciples.
As I read through various commentaries this week on the scriptures, I came across this item: "Biographers of W.C. Fields", a stand up comedian many decades ago, "always narrate an episode which happened shortly before he died. A friend came to visit him in the hospital and was amazed to find the comedian reading a Bible. 'I didn't know you were a religious person, Bill,' the friend said. 'I'm not!' Fields shot back. 'Then what are you doing with that Bible?' 'Looking for loopholes.' "