Reflections on the Daily Readings

November 23 - 29, 2014.
The Season of Ordinary Time - Thirty-fourth Week.
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II.

Sunday 23:          Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 22; 1Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46
Today is the last Sunday in the Church’s year and is celebrated as the Solemnity of Christ the King. The image we have in our readings is of the king as a shepherd. In the first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, the Lord says that he will be in the midst of his sheep so that he can keep all of them in view and look after them. The second reading from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians speaks about the resurrection of the dead in which Christ is the first to be raised, and then all those who belong to Christ. In the Gospel, Christ tells us that all peoples will be assembled before the throne of glory and they will be sorted out according to their deeds. Those who have believed in God and lived this faith out in their lives will be welcomed into the kingdom. Those who have not been faithful will not enter the kingdom. Christ is the supreme king and no matter who our civil leaders may be, we have a greater king in heaven who must be loved, obeyed and honoured.

Monday 24:         Memorial of St Andrew Dung-Lac & Companions, Martyrs*
Apocalypse 14:1-5; Psalm 23; Luke 21:1-4
Our first reading this week continues to come from St John’s Apocryphal dream and in today’s passage we are told of the Just who have been allowed entry into heaven. The image speaks of the Lamb who stands in triumph at the end of the world surrounded by those who have been faithful despite their persecutions. This would have been a support to the early Christian communities who were being persecuted by the Romans because of the faith. We have the story of the widow’s mite in the Gospel passage. For us to give away what is surplus is not really a sacrifice because we will not miss it. For us to give of what we need is real charity and a true sacrifice.

Tuesday 25:         Of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Apocalypse 14:14-19; Psalm 95; Luke 21:5-11
St John’s vision today tells of the harvesting of the earth which will take place at the end of time. Christ is the one who will reap the harvest of those who have been faithful to him. In the second analogy we see an angel placing the grapes of the unfaithful in to the winepress of God’s anger. In the Gospel, Christ foretells the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and also warns his followers to be on their guard against those who claim to be messiahs and who preach of impending doom. The Temple was the most important place for the Jews and any talk of its destruction was seen as heretical and, therefore, the message of Christ would have been seen in a very poor light in certain quarters.

Wednesday 26:   Of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Apocalypse 15:1-4; Psalm 97; Luke 21:12-19
As we read from St John’s vision in our first reading we should be encouraged to praise God by the vision of the Christians who have led victorious lives for the faith and the Gospel. At the time that the book was written the early Christians were being persecuted by the Romans and so this book would have brought great consolation and encouragement for them. In our Gospel passage for today, Jesus warns his disciples that they will suffer for him and that through it all he will be with them to strengthen them and to protect them. This protection will be ours also if we are willing to stand up for and witness to the Lord.

Thursday 27:       Of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Apocalypse 18:1-2, 21-23, 19:1-3, 9; Psalm 99; Luke 21:20-28
In our first reading we read St John’s vision of how Babylon – representing the city of Rome and the greatest city of evil – has been destroyed by God for its wickedness. At the end of the passage the assembly of heaven sings a hymn of praise for the punishment of the city and for the fact that God “judges fairly, he punishes justly.” Again in our Gospel from St Luke, Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the people for their lack of faith and perseverance. He says that there will be many signs – terrifying and frightening signs – but that will be the time to stand confidently for liberation will be near at hand.

Friday 28:            Of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Apocalypse 20:1-4, 11-21:2; Psalm 83; Luke 21:29-33
In our first reading from Apocalypse (Revelation) we are told that the dead are judged by God according to what they did in life in terms of their faith. In order to be saved their names had to be written in the book of life. We are told about the 1,000 year reign of Christ at the end of which the dragon (Satan) would be set free for a short time. Some Christian-based groups of our own time – such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses – take this passage to be literally true and see the release of the dragon to be the great battle of Armageddon when sinful and unfaithful humans will be wiped out forever and only the righteous will live. Most Christian groups see the passage as an allegory to encourage the early Christians to remain faithful and to do all they can to ensure that their names will be found in the book of life. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that even if the earth and heaven pass away his words will remain for ever. As sure as the trees bud and flower in summer, his words will come to pass.

Saturday 29:        Of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Apocalypse 22:1-7; Psalm 94; Luke 21:34-36
We conclude our liturgical year with part of the last chapter of St John’s vision in which we are told that at the end of time the saints will live in never-ending light because the Lord will be shining on them. This will take place in the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city. In our final Gospel text for this year, Christ reminds us to be always ready because we do not know when he will return and ask us to make an account of our lives. As this liturgical year ends our readings cause us to reflect on the end times and the beginnings of eternal life with God. As we prepare to begin a new liturgical year, perhaps this is a good time to reflect upon our own lives and so make preparations for our own end and entry to eternal life.

Memorials this Week:
November 24:     Memorial of St Andrew Dung-Lac & Companions, Martyrs
Andrew Dung-Lac was a Vietnamese priest who worked to spread the Gospel in what was formerly known as Indo-China (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand). Throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many Christians were martyred in Vietnam and the region for their faith – the first being Vincent Liem, O.P., who was beheaded in 1773. Today’s memorial commemorates 96 native Vietnamese men and women, 11 Dominican missionaries from Spain, and 10 French missionaries. Andrew Dung-Lac was born in 1795 and was beheaded on December 21, 1839.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.

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