Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
Reading 1 RV 14:14-19
and sitting on the cloud one who looked like a son of man,
with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
Another angel came out of the temple,
crying out in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud,
“Use your sickle and reap the harvest,
for the time to reap has come,
because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.”
So the one who was sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth,
and the earth was harvested.Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven
who also had a sharp sickle.
Then another angel came from the altar, who was in charge of the fire,
and cried out in a loud voice
to the one who had the sharp sickle,
“Use your sharp sickle and cut the clusters from the earth’s vines,
for its grapes are ripe.”
So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage.
He threw it into the great wine press of God’s fury.
Responsorial Psalm PS 96:10, 11-12, 13
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Alleluia RV 2:10C
Remain faithful until death,
and I will give you the crown of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 21:5-11
While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’
Do not follow them!
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.”
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
Jesus predicted it 37 years before it happened. Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, who heard Paul’s testimony at Caesarea (Acts 26), tried hard to prevent it, as did the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (our main source of first-century information). But the fall of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple in A.D. 70 happened nevertheless, and it was a catastrophe with almost unparalleled consequences for Jews, Christians, and, indeed, all of subsequent history.
It compelled a whole new vector for synagogue (not Temple) Judaism, it submerged the Jewish homeland for the next 19 centuries under foreign domination, it helped foster the split between church and synagogue, and it set the stage for rampant prophetic speculation about the End Times that continues to the present day. Few episodes in history have had that sort of impact.
The Jewish rebellion in A.D. 66 that ignited the war with Rome was by no means inevitable. Judaism was a legal religion in the Roman Empire, and Nero’s own empress, Poppaea, was very interested in it. Contrary to biblical novels and movies, far worse things could happen to you in the ancient world than to be conquered by Rome.
The Romans hung out the traffic lights in their sprawling empire, curbing piracy at sea and brigandage by land, thus providing security in the Mediterranean world. The apostle Paul’s missionary journeys would have been impossible without the Pax Romana, the “Roman peace” that ordered society. As for the “horrors” of Roman taxation, I would much rather have paid the tribute to Rome as a citizen of Jerusalem than American income tax!
Still, Rome did have wayward governors who were not always disciplined, even if there was an extortion court set up for this purpose at Rome. Governors of Judea had a particularly difficult role, because according to Deuteronomy 17:15 it was heresy for any Gentile to govern God’s people: “You must not put a foreigner over you who is not your brother.” Nevertheless, the governors Rome sent to Judea in the first century were able enough, including Pontius Pilate, who could never have had a ten-year tenure there had he been the villain so familiar in sermons and novels.
Gessius Florus, however, Rome’s last governor before the Jewish rebellion, made Pilate look like a paragon of virtue by comparison. Emperor Nero, perhaps distracted in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome, had not done a good job of screening overseas governors, and this wretch slipped through. Venal, corrupt, and brutal, Florus hoped that a Jewish rebellion would somehow cover his own crimes in Judea, and so he fomented discontent among his subjects wherever possible. Even the first-century Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus commented, “Jewish patience persisted until Gessius Florus became procurator” (History5.10).
Justifiably outraged, Jerusalemites rose in revolt, even though Jews who had visited Rome warned that war would end in disaster because of Rome’s overpowering resources. Zealots in Jerusalem—the “fourth party” after the Scribes, Pharisees, and Essenes, according to Josephus—carried the day, and the Jews won some surprising early victories against the Romans.
Until, that is, Commander Vespasian landed in Galilee with three legions. After that, it was a steady Roman advance southward into Judea, with Jewish strongholds falling one after another along the way. In fact, Vespasian was at the walls of Jerusalem when news reached him of the turmoil in Rome following Nero’s death. Soon Rome’s eastern legions declared Vespasian the new emperor. Before hurrying off to Rome in 69 to don imperial purple, he transferred command of the Jewish war to his own son Titus (also future emperor), who would complete the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.
Read the rest:
Nobody really expected the teachings of this man and his 12 followers to be around very long after they died….
Commentary on Luke 21:5-11 From Living Space
The Temple at Jerusalem in Jesus’ time was a magnificent building and one of the wonders of the world. As the Gospel tells us it had been more than 40 years in the building and was not yet completed.
People were commenting to Jesus on the beautiful decorations of jewels and votive offerings. His hearers must have been shocked, if not utterly sceptical, when Jesus told them that in time the building would be utterly destroyed with “not one stone left on another”. Who would ever have dreamt that the World Trade Center, that temple to capitalism, would be reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes? And how much more the Temple of God?
“When will this happen?” they asked him. “And what will be the signs preceding?” Jesus’ answer is directed more to the end of time than to the actual destruction of the Temple which occurred about 40 years later in the year 70 AD. In fact, one event blends into the other. To many who were witnesses to its destruction, it must have seemed like the end of their world. What kind of life could they live without their Temple, without the dwelling place of their God? How could Yahweh allow such a thing to happen? It left a huge empty space in their lives which nothing else could fill.
Jesus’ warning is that his followers should not misread the signs or be too alarmed. It seems the early Christians were in general expecting Jesus to return for his Second Coming within their lifetime. This must have led to many false alarms – people claiming to be the returned Lord or warning that the end of all things was close at hand. Even the destruction of the Temple (for many of the Christians were converted Jews) must have looked like the beginning of the end. St Augustine had similar feelings as Rome, the heart of Christendom, fell in ruins to the ‘barbarians’ (the ancestors of many of us!). The end of Rome seemed to him like the end of the world.
Jesus tells his followers not to be too ready to believe what they hear people saying. Nor are they to be too alarmed when they hear of wars and social upheavals. There will be, too, many natural disasters, widespread diseases and celestial phenomena. These do not necessarily spell the end. The message now being given is: “The end does not follow immediately.”
At every pivotal time in the history of our planet, there are people who claim to see the end in sight. The coming of the third millennium was no exception. So far they have all been wrong. The attitude of Christians is not to be one of fear and anxiety. It sees the new era as a time of challenge and opportunity, a time for new beginnings.
On a more personal and much more realistic level, we may be anxious about the signs of our own time of departure from this world. But again it does not help to become fearful and anxious but rather to live each day to the full and to make it productive for ourselves and others.
Today, many people live their lives as if there is no tomorrow. They have no thought of life after death. Their concern is only about this life, how to be happy, how to enjoy and how to make the best of it. Their only thought is to get as much as they can from this short life because once dead, everything is over. Few people today think of the final judgment that is to come, even though many Catholics profess this as a belief whenever they recite the creed every Sunday that “He will come to judge the living and the dead.” That is why they tend to live careless, reckless and irresponsible lives.
But today’s scripture readings remind us that judgment is real and is inevitable. In the first reading, we read of the angel sent by the Lord to reap the harvest of the earth. Those who live good, honest and faithful lives will of course look forward to this day because it is their day of reward and glory. Thy will find eternal peace and happiness for all that they did. On the other hand, those who do evil will also be judged accordingly. The other angel sent by the Lord this time was to “cut all the branches off the vine of the earth” and “the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger.” The winepress refers to the judgment of those who are evil. They would be punished accordingly.
Like the people during the time of Jesus, We also ask “when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?” Jesus makes it clear that the Day of Judgment is not to be mistaken as if it is happening soon because we hear of natural catastrophes or wars and revolutions. On the contrary, these are things that are happening all the time. Humanity is being purified and judged at every point of time in history. Judgement is an ongoing process. The effects of our deeds, good or bad, will manifest themselves in our history, at times, sooner and at other times, much later. But when we hear of the consequences of man’s actions, especially evil actions, we should not be surprised. Nature will unfold itself. Those of us who do not live according to the laws of nature will suffer the backlash. This is what is happening in the world today, whether it is ecology of creation and nature; or of human ecology when the natural laws of life are not respected. Indeed, because humanity has tampered with the natural laws through the use science and technology without consideration for the moral and ethical consequences, humanity will ultimately destroy itself. We see this in those countries that are promoting a one-child policy, and the effects of an affluent society on our marriages and families as well as our health.
So, it must be clear that judgement is inevitable. The truth is that at the point of death, our lives will be totally transparent before God and ourselves. We will call to mind all that we have done and said. We will come to discover our hidden intentions and motives for all our actions. Most of all, we will see the effects of our actions, especially evil deeds on our loved ones, our children and children’s children; and society at large. Whilst the body can suffer decadence and corruption, the mind, which is our soul, continues to be at work in us. When we come to realize the immense pain and sufferings we have caused to others, we will be brought to shame and guilt. Purgatory is precisely that state when we cannot forgive ourselves or those who have hurt us. Hell is when we are so ashamed of ourselves that we do not even want to meet God who is always forgiving us. Our pride will hinder us from asking for forgiveness and healing. However, if we have done good, we will also see the positive effects of our deeds. Looking at the fruitful results of our actions, we are delighted that we have made a difference in the lives of our fellowmen and we have served God, Church and society. We will not have any regrets and we can therefore return to God.
Thus, we must be watchful and be realistic that nothing on this earth can last. No matter how much money we have and how much material things we own, all these will pass and we cannot take them with us. This is the warning of Jesus when He reminded the people who were admiring the Temple, “remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings.” This Temple was not Solomon’s Temple but the one rebuilt after the exile by Ezra. It was then desecrated by the Seleucids but later expanded by Herod the Great over a 46 year period. It was considered a great achievement and the pride of the Jews. But Jesus was upfront. He said, “All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.” This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Roman army demolished it completely. In other words, no structure on this earth can last regardless how majestic a monument or a structure it might be.
So instead of worrying about all the rumours about the end of the world, it is more fruitful for us to pay attention to ourselves, to the Temple of God that we belong to. We must live our lives ever ready to face judgement at any point of our life. Judgement and retribution can happen in this life or in the next. So it is important that we be prepared at all times. This means that we should be more concerned about looking after ourselves, the Temple of God. By our baptism, we are all one in the Body of Christ in whom His Spirit lives. Therefore to look after the Temple of God, we must adorn it with good works, good deeds, love, mercy and forgiveness. Unless, we keep our Temple clean and free from sin and evil, we will not be ready to meet the Lord or face the consequences of our actions.
Indeed, the responsorial psalm tells us that God is a just God. “The Lord comes to rule the earth. Proclaim to the nations: ‘God is king.’ The world he made firm in its place; he will judge the peoples in fairness. Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad, let the sea and all within it thunder praise. Let the land and all it bears rejoice, all the trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord for he comes, he comes to rule the earth. With justice he will rule the world; he will judge the peoples with his truth.” This God of love is also a God of justice. He is ultimately in control of the world. We must trust Him and be receptive to His rule in our lives. To allow God to rule our lives is what the establishment of the Kingdom of God is all about. To have God reign in our hearts means to ensure that justice, righteousness, truth, love and mercy prevail in our lives.
Accordingly, we must give an account of our lives to God and to our brothers and sisters. We need to use what the Lord has given to us for the service of others. At the end of the day, we will be asked whether we have used the resources that God has blessed us with solely for ourselves or for the greater good of others. God has blessed us with many gifts. What we are today is the result of God’s bountiful love. So we must use them to bless others. This is where we situate the meaning of service. We must use our blessings to bring about a better society and a more vibrant Church. In this way, we can also share in the harvest of God, as we bring the fruits of our labour to Christ. When we live good lives, when our conscience is clear because we know we have done all we could for Church, family and society, we need not be too anxious about the end of the world or the judgement day. Judgement for us becomes a day of liberation, not punishment; a day of reward, not condemnation. We can live our days in peace, knowing that we are prepared to answer before the Lord at any point of time when He calls us.
Saint Cecilia by Guido Reni, 1606
Saint Cecilia (Latin: Sancta Caecilia) is the patroness of musicians. It is written that as the musicians played at her wedding she “sang in her heart to the Lord”. Her feast day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churcheson November 22. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
Tags: destruction of Jerusalem, Lk 21:5-11, November 22 2016, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 96, rv 14:14-19, Saint Cecilia, the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down