Reflections on the Daily Readings

November 22 - 28, 2020
The Season of Ordinary Time - The Thirty-fourth Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II.

Sunday 22:          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
The last Sunday of the Church’s year is celebrated as the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, or Christ the King. It is a reminder that everything comes from God through Jesus who is King and Lord of all. In it we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is the one we worship, the one who, with the Father, created all things, and who is our sure and certain hope. Unlike other earthly rulers, he is not swayed by politics and greed, by power and the ability to dominate others. He is the one who rules as the Good Shepherd and who has genuine and unending concern for all his people no matter how poor a life they lead. As the liturgical year draws to a close it is appropriate that as we look back over it we acknowledge all that we have received from the Lord’s goodness. It is also a good time to look forward while affirming that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all, that he is the Universal King.
The image we have in our readings is of the king as a shepherd which was a common image in the ancient Near East several thousand years ago. 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 text was written at a time when the leadership of the people was at a low point and so the Lord is assuring the people that they will receive new leadership, one that will give life and look after them. That leadership will be God himself and he will watch over the weak as well as the strong.
The second reading from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians speaks about the resurrection of the dead in which Jesus Christ is the first to be raised, followed by all those who are faithful to him, and so that which was granted to Jesus Christ is available to all his people. The mission of Jesus is to bring all things under the rule of the Father as Creator of all.
In the gospel, Jesus tells his listeners that all peoples and nations 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 out this faith in their lives will be welcomed into the Kingdom, and the mark of faith will be their reaching out to others who are in need and doing all that is possible to ease their burdens and make their lives better. Jesus also associates himself with his subjects and says that he is to be found in each person and therefore highlights the importance of helping others regardless of race, nationality, colour or religion. On the other hand, those who have not been faithful will not enter the Kingdom. Jesus is the supreme King no matter who the civil leaders might be, and he is to be loved, obeyed and honoured above all others, because he alone can bring eternal life.

Monday 23:         Memorial of St Columban, Abbot*
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 24:         Memorial of St Andrew Dung-Lac & Companions, Martyrs*
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 25:    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 26:       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 27:            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 28:        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 23:     Memorial of St Columban, Abbot
Columban (Columbanus) was born in Leinster, eastern Ireland, in the mid-sixth century and became a monk. He left Bangor for France and founded the famous monastery of Luxeuil in the Vosges in eastern France. In 610 he was exiled from France by Queen Brunhilda and went to northern Italy, where he founded the equally famous monastery of Bobbio. He defended and maintained Irish customs and his strict Rule was very influential on European monasticism during the sixth and seventh centuries. He died in 615 in Bobbio, where a basilica is dedicated to him.

November 24:     Memorial of St Andrew Dung-Lac & Companions, Martyrs
Tran An Dung was born in Vietnam in 1795 and took the name Andrew (Anre Dung) at his baptism, and was ordained priest in 1823. He worked to spread the Gospel in what was formerly known as Indo-China (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand) and changed his name to Dung-Lac to evade capture and so continue working. Throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many Christians were martyred in Vietnam and across the region for their faith beginning with Vincent Liem, O.P. (b. 1732), who was beheaded in 1773. Today’s memorial commemorates ninety-six native Vietnamese men and women, eleven Dominican missionaries from Spain, and ten French missionaries. Andrew Dung-Lac was beheaded on December 21, 1839.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011, 2013
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.

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