Homily – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Fr Cuthbert Brennan OSB

If you came to mass this morning expecting to be uplifted by receiving some good news then you may have been disappointed as you listened to the readings. The prophet Malachi predicts days blazing like an oven, a divine fire and people reduced to stubble. Luke is not much cheerier, with Jesus announcing that nations will rise against nation, familial divisions, earthquakes, famines and plagues. On an individual
level, there is the promise of persecution, hatred and even death, though at the end of the gospel there is the perplexing line, ‘not a hair on your head will be destroyed.’

You could almost create a TikTok for the church from today’s readings;
Although you’ll be persecuted, imprisoned and put to death, your hair is going to look fabulous. Good news indeed. I don’t think you’ll get too many likes or followers with that message. These readings are not about a prediction of the future but rather they remind us of the precariousness of the present. Our world is not so stable and fixed as we might like to think it is. We have been travelling with Jesus to Jerusalem since June 26 th , the 13 th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Luke has been our guide and if you remember along the way we have encountered time and again great reversals, the last will be first, the first will be last, we heard that the kingdom of God is at hand, we encountered the foolishness of God in leaving everything to seek out
that which is lost. And to-day we arrive in Jerusalem and Jesus is offering us the vision of an ending and a new beginning, a vision of God’s kingdom and a different kind of temple where Jesus is the cornerstone. Jesus understands that every temple is a temporary structure, every system we create will collapse, every cause, every framework that we construct will fade away, will disappoint….. except his!!

The name we give to the genre of reading we are presented with today is called apocalyptic. While in the popular imagination apocalypse denotes widespread destruction or disaster, its original meaning is uncovering, unveiling in order to impart wisdom, meaning and especially hope to people. And that is that job of every Christian here. We are, in the words of St Paul this morning to the Thessalonians, to get to work. As the followers of Jesus we are to pull apart the veil, raise the curtain, shine a spotlight on every inhumanity to humanity, every act that diminishes human dignity, not only attacks with ballistic missiles and armed drones but on every slur that we make against
another. Do we build up or destroy people by our words and actions.

How well do we encourage one another, build each other up, co-create an environment where all can truly be themselves, and live in peace. What is the cost to my community, to the rest of the world and to the planet in maintaining my status quo? If there is good news in the gospel this morning, it is that if your world is not at peace at present, then it will not always be that way. God is not just in the creating and constructing business but in the deconstructing, dismantling business. God will bring an end to all of this – there will be a day when there
will not be a tomorrow.

What is it like to have God end something in your life? What is it like to experience a micro-apocalypse in our lives? God is there.
Maybe you have lost a loved one, lost your job, ended a relationship, and posted something you shouldn’t have had on social media and have been found out, posted some comments about others that are hurtful or simply untrue. What do we do in the face of such loss and grief, such inhumanity and insanity? We turn to the Spirit which resides in us individually and collectively and we stir that phoenix of hope to take wing so that God’s holy hope might surge within us. For with every ending there is a new beginning, we are offered a whole new life.
Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourner, tells the story from some years ago of volunteering in a church homeless shelter around Christmas time. The church basement was decorated with banners, “Good news! Christ is born!” “Glory to God in the Highest” and so on. One of the
men who lived each day out on the streets looked around the room and asked, “What is the good news anyway?” Jim said there was a long pause; no one knew what to say. Finally someone spoke up from the back of the line, “The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this.”
It doesn’t have to be this way.

On this World day for the poor, how might the millions of refugees and displaced hear this gospel. How about the 164,000 children who are living in poverty in this country? The world as it is, is not what God had in mind. The difference between bad news and good news that is gospel, depends on where you happen to be standing when you get the news.

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