Father Donald Senior, CP

“The sun of justice with its healing rays…”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Perspectives on Scripture

Nov. 13: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mal 3:19-26a; Ps 98:5-6, 7-8, 9; 2 Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19

Some time ago I read a comparison of two movies dealing with visits to earth of extra-terrestrial beings. In one, the famous Spielberg film “ET,” people were at first expecting a hostile alien creature but the one who shows up turns out to be sweet and loveable (and homesick). In the other, the satirical comedy “Mars Attack,” people are assembled to give an enthusiastic welcome to visitors from outer space, only to be annihilated by them when they arrive. Thinking about our final destiny and wondering what the end will be has long been a point of human speculation.

In this 33rd Sunday, the church’s liturgical calendar is approaching the end of its year. Next week is the feast of Christ the King and after that Advent begins. The mood of the readings assigned for this Sunday and the ones to come is about the final destiny of humankind. What will it be like? Will it be a blessing or a curse? What does our Christian faith tell us about our longterm future as a human family?

The first reading is from the Hebrew prophet Malachi, writing to the people Israel in the aftermath of the Babylonian exile, a time of utter chaos and profound dislocation. In an effort to rouse Israel’s trust in God’s loving providence, Malachi frankly acknowledges the convulsions that seem to grip their history at this moment but also urges them to persevere and to realize that those who “fear” or stand in awe of God, will experience “the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Because of Malachi’s vision of a future in which God heals the people with this “sun of Justice,” the early Christians who put together the sequence of the biblical books put Malachi as the concluding book of the Old Testament. The whole history of Israel, despite its many setbacks and suffering, ends on a note of radiant hope.

In the dramatic scene from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ mission is drawing to a close. He is in Jerusalem on the eve of his passion and death. Hearing people talking about the beauty of the temple (“adorned with costly stones and votive offerings”), Jesus warns his disciples that even this magnificent structure will be destroyed in the chaos that was looming. Luke’s Gospel emphasizes how Jesus loved the Jerusalem temple; he was brought there by his parents as an infant and longed to stay there when his parents brought him back to Jerusalem for his bar mitzvah. But even this beautiful building — one of the true wonders of the world in Jesus’ time — would be destroyed, as in fact it was in the Roman siege of Jerusalem some forty years after the death of Jesus. 

Jesus, like Malachi, does not flinch from speaking of the travails of human history — the violence, the treachery, the upheavals of nature. He also notes the sufferings and persecution that will be endured by the disciples and the future followers of Jesus. 

We have only to review human history, including our own era, with its wars, conflicts and violence to realize the enduring truth of Jesus’ words. Even more important Jesus’ view about the final destiny of God’s human family: “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Here and throughout the New Testament Christian faith affirms that the final chapter of human history is in the hands of a loving God. We have ultimate hope not because of human prowess or virtue but because the God revealed by Jesus is a saving and loving God. Reflecting on this conviction, the great medieval mystic Julian of Norwich uttered her famous words, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” The exuberant words of Psalm 98 for this Sunday’s responsorial psalm have the same hope-filled tone: “Sing praise to the Lord with the harp … for the Lord comes to rule the earth.”


  • scripture