33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B.
14th November, 2021
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Courage, Raise Your Head!
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Today is the Word Day of Prayer for the Poor. On this day we are invited to offer friendship, solidarity and welcome to the poorest of our sisters and brothers. As we reach out with love and support, let us hold all members of our global family in our prayers. All are invited to donate good clean clothes, non-perishable food, toiletries and stationery as a sign of our solidarity with the poor. These can be dropped off in the parish during the week.
We are coming to the end of the liturgical year and our scripture readings encourage us to be aware that time is important and not to be taken for granted.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Daniel 12:1-3
Introduction to the reading: The book of Daniel was written 150 years before Christ, when the Jews were experiencing fierce persecution. The author wanted to encourage them by telling heroic stories about a person named Daniel who lived many centuries earlier. For most of their history, Old Testament people believed only in, at best, a shadowy existence after death. Today’s passage contains one of the earliest references to a growing belief in life after death.
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.
“At that time shall arise Michael,
the great prince who has charge of your people.
And there shall be a time of trouble,
such as never has been since there was a nation till that time;
but at that time your people shall be delivered,
everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth
some to everlasting life,
and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
And those who are wise
shall shine like the brightness of the firmament;
and those who turn many to righteousness,
like the stars forever and ever.”
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 16:5 & 8.9-10.11 (R. 1)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
you yourself who secure my lot.
I keep the Lord before me always;
with him at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
And so, my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my flesh shall rest in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to hell,
nor let your holy one see corruption.
You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand, bliss forever.
R/. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
Second Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14.18
Introduction to the reading:
Scholars feel that the community for which the Letter to the Hebrews was written included Christians of Jewish origin. Since the letter was written after the Jewish temple was destroyed, they were pining for the old days when the high priest offered daily sacrifices in the temple. The author says they shouldn’t be upset. They no longer need a temple, sacrifices or priests because Jesus is all of these and more.
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.
Every priest stands daily at his service,
offering repeatedly the same sacrifices,
which can never take away sins.
But when Christ had offered for all time
a single sacrifice for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of God,
then to wait until his enemies
should be made a stool for his feet.
For by a single offering
he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
Where there is forgiveness of these,
there is no longer any offering for sin.
The word of the Lord.
Watch at all times, praying
that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.
Gospel: Mark 13:24-32
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“In those days, after that (great) tribulation,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of man
coming in clouds with great power and glory.
And then he will send out the angels,
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson:
as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves,
you know that summer is near.
So also, when you see these things taking place,
you know that he is near, at the very gates.
Truly, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away
before all these things take place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.
“But of that day or that hour no one knows,
not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,
but only the Father.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
About a month ago, on a Sunday evening, a young man rang the bell and asked to see me as he had a few questions to ask about the Catholic faith. So I let him in and we started talking. It soon became clear that was not interested in learning anything about Catholicism. He said he was called to evangelise – and essentially this was what he doing. He would go to strangers and tell them that because God was just, they were going to hell because of their sins. Most people were sinners and were going to hell. To prevent that, they must accept Jesus into their life, and join the cult or sect he belonged to and contribute money.
This is wrong on so many levels, so I tried to make an effort to help him understand that God is love and that love will bring people into communion with God. This young man seemed to have a script he had memorised and was unable to think or deepen his understanding.
So I sent him on his way with a prayer that he would discover the love of God in his life.
This young man believed that most people were going to hell, and only a very few would be in heaven. The readings today get us to think about heaven and hell, death and judgement, the end of time and the glory awaiting believers. This can be scary and frightening – so we want to see where God is in all of this.
The first reading and the Gospel are pieces of apocalyptical literature. There are people who claim to have a “bible code” and an ability to determine dates and times when the catastrophic events portrayed in the readings will occur.
Without exception – they are wrong in every respect. All this preoccupation with figuring when all these things will happen is really a distraction because apocalyptical readings in the scriptures are meant to be a consolation, not a means to predict events, or scare people about what lies ahead.
The writers of the apocalyptic literature in the Bible are writing in a time of collapse, persecutions, loss of ideals, despair and faith under duress that characterized the 200 years before the birth of Christ and for a good 200 years after the birth of Christ.
The message is important: good will triumph, God will reign, evil will be finally overcome. Even today, in 2021, we need to be reminded of this message.
This is definitely NOT about putting off doing anything about the problems in our world like global warming, but it is a way of reassuring us when we don’t see a lot of results from our labours. God has not abandoned us and will bring to completion what God has promised and what we are working so hard to bring about.
It sounds like the author of Daniel is writing about the future; but the present is the main concern. The Book of Daniel is intended to strengthen the faith of Jews in the 2nd century B.C. and encourage them to stay faithful to the teachings of their ancestors, rather than turn to the attractive Greek philosophies and lifestyles of their day.
The author lived in a time when Greeks ruled over Israel and were attempting to unify the world of their conquests by establishing their culture and political system everywhere they ruled. In Israel, it was a crime to practice Judaism and people were killed for their faith. We can read about this in 1 & 2 Maccabees.
Thus, the reading from the Book of Daniel is offering an optimistic view of the future. Justice will triumph, and even those seemingly overcome by death will rise.
We have here the earliest reference in the Bible to the resurrection of the dead.
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth
shall awake, some to everlasting life.”
The Gospel today is also an example of apocalyptical writing. Like the first reading, this is not a prediction of the future, but an attempt to help the suffering Christian community, to keep faith and be comforted by the assurance that God will bring victory in the future.
Jesus’ death means that the final age had started and the end was near. Thus the ‘end times’ in the New Testament refer to the entire time after the death of Jesus. It does NOT mean the end of the world. When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 AD, it looked like the end of the world was about to happen. When it didn’t, the next Gospels after Mark’s Gospel were written by Matthew and Luke and they had to rethink the second coming of Christ. Clearly, it wasn’t to happen as soon as the early Christians expected.
The early Christians were waiting for Christ to come “with great power and glory” to bring an end to suffering and oppression. All that Christ taught about the forgiveness of sins, his authority, the promise of life, the victory over evil, and the triumph over death, would be accomplished. For Christians still facing persecution and death, this glimpse into the assured future must have been very helpful and encouraging.
Each generation must deal with this teaching about the end of the world, or worlds. We already have known many endings in our lifetime. We don’t have to be morbid or pessimistic about how things will end, but reflecting on the end of our world may help put things in perspective.
I want us to look at it with a new perspective. Please all repeat after me:
“Thank you God for this day.”
Let us see things in the perspective of the Gospel, Let us appreciate the present – the Now – in the light of the future.
The world will end. A reasonable guess would be 3.5 billion years in the future, when our sun starts approaching the end of its lifespan. More importantly – how are we now living in it?
We are invited to welcome each moment, live it fully, grow in love for God and others. Jesus says that we don’t know what hour will be our last – so let this hour be important. We South Africans live so much in the future, we plan how things will be when we get out of school, settle into a job, marry, retire, get the kids through school, etc. We need to look and plan for the future, but we cherish “this day” and God’s presence to us at this moment with all the opportunities this moment offers us.
Jesus tells us that it is useless to wonder about when all will be finalized. The Gospel calls for our community to stay alert. It must have been a comfort to those who were suffering for their faith. They had the kinds of questions believers have always pondered – why must good people suffer? Why is the world so violent towards the innocent? Why doesn’t an all-powerful God do something to change the way things are? If God loves us, why must we suffer so?
We respond with our faith that God has promised to be with us no matter what we must suffer and to bring to completion the victory promised us today.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Heaven and earth will pass away
but my words will not pass away
Our faith invites us to trust that, even amid complete upheaval, God has not abandoned us. “The tribulation” Jesus predicts for his disciples is about to take place for him. When their world collapses with Jesus’ death, will they remember and cling to his words and look forward to an entirely new Spring? The same can be asked of us.
So we ask ourselves:
- As we face our own tribulations and challenges, can we trust that Jesus’ words will not to fail us and that he will be faithful to us?
- How can I be a symbol of Jesus’ steadfastness to others in their trials?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: Let us pray to God, the Father of the poor, who hears our prayers and in whose image we are all made.
Lord, we pray for Pope Francis, that he may have the strength and courage to lead the Church and continue to be a voice for the voiceless, a friend to the poor.
LORD HEAR US
Lord, we pray for the leaders of South Africa: that they may work for the good of all our people, especially those neglected and marginalised in our society.
LORD HEAR US
Lord, we pray for our parish community, that we will always be kind and considerate and learn how to grow as agents of change who will build a better world.
LORD HEAR US
Lord, we pray for those who are lonely and those confined to their home: we remember also those of our parish community who have died recently.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for all the faithful departed on the Pious Lists.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Josephine Boies who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Prayer for the World Day of Prayer for the Poor
God of the Poor,
you hear and stand with all who suffer.
Be with us as we seek justice and mercy
for the poor in our world today.
Move us to see, hear, and respond
to the suffering poor in our midst.
Challenge us to take prophetic action
with and for all who are afflicted.
Mould us to move closer and listen deeply
to those who need our help and protection.
Empower us to speak out with courage
against harm and degradation.
Guide us to build just communities
of inclusion and acceptance.
Teach us to walk in your ways
so that all can share in your abundance.
Open us to welcome your grace
in the faces of people living at the margins.
Send us where we need to go to meet you.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Your creation, O God,
runs its appointed course,
as from the ends of the earth
you gather a people you call your own.
Confirm us in the strength of your abiding word.
Steady our hearts in the time of trial,
so that on the day of the Son of Man
we may without fear rejoice to behold his appearing.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.