Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Christ Stands Before Pilate by Nicholas Gai — Seeking Truth — Veritas
Reading 1 RV 22:1-7
An angel showed me the river of life-giving water,
sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle of the street,
On either side of the river grew the tree of life
that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month;
the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.
Nothing accursed will be found anymore.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun,
for the Lord God shall give them light,
and they shall reign forever and ever.And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true,
and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits,
sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.”
“Behold, I am coming soon.”
Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.
Responsorial Psalm PS 95:1-2, 3-5, 6-7AB
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great king above all gods;
In his hands are the depths of the earth,
and the tops of the mountains are his.
His is the sea, for he has made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Alleluia LK 21:36
Be vigilant at all times and pray
that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 21:34-36
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Commentary on Luke 21:34-36 From Living Space
Our final reading from Luke (and this Church year) continues the messages of warning that he has been giving during the week.
The warning is not to become immersed in a life of self-centred indulgence and hedonism nor to be overcome by many worries and anxieties. It is these two things which can dominate the lives of so many: a combination of escapism from what is difficult and a running to activities where happiness is confused with pleasure.
The “great day” is going to close in like a trap – quickly and without previous warning. “The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth.” Of course, for every single one of us, that “great day” in practice is the day on which we will be called individually to face our Lord and Creator.
(One might ask, What do we do while we are waiting for the rest of the world to join us? Perhaps we should remember that ‘on the other side’ it is an eternal Now, with no past or future. It is like going to the hub of a wheel from any part of the rim. All converge together in the same place.)
So we are warned to be permanently on the watch. To pray constantly for strength to avoid what is bad for us and that we may be able to stand secure when we come face to face with the Son of Man. In some ways, the demands are very simple, although we find them difficult at times – showing our fidelity to God by a loving concern for the well-being of every other person, but especially those most in need. “As often as you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to ME.”
Whatever the circumstances of our life we look forward in confidence to the ultimate victory of God, of Jesus and of the Kingdom. As has been said here more than once, the best preparation for that unpredictable moment of leaving this world is to live as fully as we can in the presence of our always-present God. Let us seek him, find him and respond to him in every single person and in every single experience of our daily lives.
“O Lord, grant that all my thoughts, intentions, actions and responses may directed solely to your love and service this day and every day.” Amen.
“The antidote to fear is faith”
If we are “spiritual” what do we get?
We get peace. We might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”
We might simplify further and say, “We get a good night’s sleep.”
Our anxiety goes away or is greatly reduced.
We get freedom and a clear head. We get the joy of living not for ourselves but for and with others. We get a shot at eternity.
We might ask, “If you are spiritual, do you pray?” Many have said, “no prayer, no spiritual life.”
We might recommend this book, which suggests, after much study, that we who want to be or get closer to God, do at least four (not one or three) things frequently… We at Peace and Freedom have come to belive that these four actions help the addicted, the unbelievers, and everyone in between….)
(Might also be called, “Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian” or “Four Signs of A Dynamic Person in Recovery”)
- We Pray and Meditate
- We study (spiritual works, like the scripture — For alcoholics and drug addicted people, we study the 12 Step literature)
- We pour ourselves out in loving service to others
- We evangelize. A Christians talks about his faith — he is not ashamed. A person in AA or another 12 Step recovery program, does 12 Step work.
Do We Pray?
“A soul should not resolve, on account of the dryness it experiences, to abandon prayer.” — St. Teresa of Avila
“No prayer, no spiritual life.” –St. John Paul II
“Nothing so much purifies our mind from its errors, or our will from its depraved affections, as prayer.” — St. Francis de Sales
For thousands of years, human beings have been praying. We modern Americans may need to give it a try too. I know it’s not cool but being cool won’t keep me sober or get me to heaven!
Prayer is what “practicing” spiritual people do. They also study, do service for others, evangelize, meditate…..
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
SCRIPTURE READINGS: DN 7:15-27; LK 21:34-36As we come to the end of the liturgical year, the theme of today’s liturgy is that we must stay awake at all times. This theme seems to be repetitive during these last weeks. If the Church appears to be repetitive of this theme, it is because many of us are still not hearkening to the invitation of the Lord to be prepared for His coming.
We can never be too sure or confident that our life will be well taken care of and things will continue run smoothly for us. We may have no worries and enjoy a blessed life. Our family may be united in love and are children are doing well in their studies and careers. Yet, the peace and security we have are never guaranteed. Life is always unpredictable. Without warning and often suddenly, we might one day find ourselves struck by the death of a loved one, an accident, a misfortune, an illness, a broken marriage, unemployment or a business failure, just when we think everything is going well for us.
Of course besides all our fears and anxieties, we can also be overwhelmed by our own sins and worldly concerns. Our hearts are weighed down by greed, lust, gluttony and all kinds of worldly pursuits. We are all addicted to our sinful habits and unable to free ourselves from our disordered passion for pleasures. Many of us are too preoccupied with the cares of life. The gospel advises us to be watchful of the signs and the presence of the kingdom. Many of us are asleep. As a result, life passes us by. We live a barren life and a life that is ruled by sin. We drift from day to day without any sense of direction.
That is why Jesus warns us not to take all these things for granted. He said, “’Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth.” If we are not prepared, we can be so weighed down by the inconveniences, setbacks, failures and disappointments in life. We can also be crushed by our sins and our mistakes in life. Some of us cannot accept these passing things and events of life. We cannot forgive ourselves or those we blame for the situations we are in, or simply cannot accept the situation itself. Some of us are resigned to the difficulties of life, but are not trying to transcend or overcome our problems. Others try to drown their sorrows by escaping into drinks, or engaging in vain and useless activities. Instead of confronting the way they live, they want to numb their senses and their conscience.
So without exception, besides contending with our internal enemies, we also have to contend with external foes in our lives that threaten our peace and joy. Who, then, are our external enemies? The first reading from the Prophet Daniel speaks of the forces of evil in the world. Daniel had earlier interpreted that vivid dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, about a terrifying statue symbolizing four kingdoms. Historically, we know that these kingdoms were the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Greeks. (Cf Daniel 2) The four beasts in Daniel’s own dream in Chapter 7 probably corresponds also to these same four kingdoms. Clearly, the fourth beast refers to the Greek Empire, from which arose Antiochus IV Epiphanes who was one of the generals who inherited part of the empire of Alexander the Great after his death. He proved to be the greatest persecutor of the Church. He was the horn that made “war on the saints and proving the stronger … he is going to speak words against the Most High, and harass the saints of the Most High. He will consider changing seasons and the Law, and the saints will be put into his power for a time, two times, and half a time.” Indeed, because of him, many Jews defected from their faith and gave up the Covenant and the Law.
What about our enemies today? Today our enemies are not so much physical powers or internal enemies but spiritual forces at work in the world. I would consider the four beasts in our time as secularism, relativism, materialism and religious syncretism. Secularism denies the reality of God and puts God out of the affairs of man. Relativism amoralizes all values so much so that the objectivity of truth is no longer known. Materialism reduces man merely to an animal like the rest of the creatures on earth, making him lose his spiritual consciousness. Finally, there is religious and scientific syncretism, which encompasses the New Age phenomena whereby science and religions are eclectically fused together so that man comes to deceive himself thinking that he is god. Whilst the first three are obviously anti-religion, the last seems to be “religious”, but is in fact as insidious a lie as it confuses our real identity and calling. Indeed because the New Age phenomena looks so innocent, attractive and compatible with religions, even many of our Catholics unwittingly have imported such New Age beliefs and practices into their spiritual life and daily living. New Age philosophy is basically pantheistic.
It is therefore necessary for us, as Jesus said, to “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” We must continue to stand firm in the face of the challenges in society where Christianity is no longer having the kind of influence on the world as it had before. In fact, we are at a critical stage of history when people are losing faith in the institutions, be they political or religious. As Christians, we must continue to resist the secularist, relativist and materialist approaches to life. We must be firm in upholding true values that are rooted in the dignity of the human being.
At the same time, we must, in our fight against evil, be confident that we will triumph in the end. We must not be pessimistic when we consider the struggles we have to put up with. This is what the first reading is assuring us. We read that in spite of the great persecution, evil has a limit “until the coming of the one of great age who gave judgement in favour of the saints of the Most High, when the time came for the saints to take over the kingdom.” Prophet Daniel said “the saints will be put into his power for a time, two times, and half a time.” In other words, for three and a half years, which is a symbol of incompleteness. Evil can only reign temporarily. It might appear to have the upper hand, but God is in control. The forces of evil will ultimately be destroyed. Eventually, the Kingdom of God will be established as the only reality. This kingdom has in fact already been established in Christ Jesus.
This prophecy about the “final and absolute destruction” of this king’s rule must have been a great source of comfort to the faithfulliving at that time and to us today. Hence, with the psalmist, we can truly praise God for His love and fidelity to us. “Give glory and eternal praise to him.” Indeed, the psalmist calls for sons of men, all Israel, Priests, Servants of the Lord, Spirits and souls of the just and Holy men of humble heart, “bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
However, this kingdom is only given to the saints, to those who have persevered against the forces of evil. The tragedy is that many of us are still unaware that God’s kingdom is already here. Truly, many of us are aware that we are not being true to ourselves or to God. For this reason, today, Jesus urges us to be awake at all times. We must live the life that is given to us fully. Instead of running away from problems and troubles, we must seek to face life and live it courageously. In this way, we can live without regrets whatsoever and can face the Son of Man with a clear conscience, knowing that we have done all that we could. Such a life is the only kind worth living. By living in this manner, the kingdom of God also becomes a reality in our lives. We will then know the promise of God that His reign would be established in the saints is fulfilled, as prophet Daniel foretold in the first reading. Together with Jesus, God’s kingdom will reign in us, a kingdom that is eternal because the life of God is in us. We too must keep ourselves awake at all times so that we can see the reality of the Kingdom of God establishing itself in our lives even while we continue our struggles against the kingdom of evil. In this way, the Kingdom of God will gradually but certainly be established so that the prophecy of Daniel that His kingdom will be established forever is fulfilled.
What remains therefore is the question of how we can keep ourselves awake at all times. The key to being awake is to pray at all times. This is the advice of Jesus. For it is in prayer that we will find strength and wisdom to direct and sustain ourselves in the face of trials and challenges. Only in prayer, can we find the power of God to keep us firm in our beliefs, convictions and visions. Without prayer, we will lose our sense of direction, especially when we are too absorbed by the world’s problems. We need to stand from afar in order to look at our problems objectively and with the eyes of faith. Prayers enable us to do just that. It is prayer that will give us the confidence that what we do is in accordance with our conscience. Hence, we will be able to find great strength and courage to do what we need to do. Consequently, we are no longer fearful of death or of the Lord’s final coming because our conscience is upright and hence we are able to “stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”
Why does the Church want us to have such morbid thoughts at the end of the year? It is not meant to put fear unto our hearts but to help us to be realistic and focused. This is because to live a full life now is determined by what we intend to achieve in the end. Unless we have a clear vision and goal in life, we cannot give ourselves wholeheartedly to the task of living. Vision provides us with focus and hope. Without a clear understanding of one’s vision, we cannot commit ourselves to the task with zeal. Without vision, we cannot strengthen the community’s spirit. Whether our members will make a difference in the organization depends on the clarity and conviction of the mission of the organization. But more importantly, we need to have our own personal vision and mission in life. We need to ask the more fundamental question of the meaning and purpose of our existence. Otherwise, we will just drift through life as in the case of someone who loses his or her spouse. It is vision that keeps us alive and keeps us going until we realize our dream. It is vision that draws us to pour our spirit into society and help others to realize their own vision and the community’s vision.
Indeed, the tragedy is that many people in the world live an aimless life. As Jesus said, their hearts are “coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.” Indeed, so many of us fail to live our lives in the shadow of eternity. We are only preoccupied with the pleasures and anxieties of this life. We get so burdened with the non-essentials of life that we forget what is really important. We think pleasures, possessions, power and status can give us meaning in life. Nay, all these are passing. In fact some pleasures and worldly pursuits in life can destroy us even and make us insensitive to what is truly of eternal value. We live superficially and not deeply. When we live for ourselves alone and allow sins to control our lives, we will never be able to live fully as we are created for God and for love. Failing to give ourselves to God and to our fellowmen, we lose meaning and purpose to live fully. The one who tries to live for himself will eventually be frustrated because our hearts are made for God and for others. Love of self is self-suffocation.
So what is of eternal value? The first reading gives us the vision and goal of every Christian, which is to enter into the river of life. It is a life that is lived in the presence of God, seeing Him face to face. The author writes, “The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them.” We will reign with Him in the new Kingdom. In the responsorial psalm, we are called to praise God and recognize Him as our Lord and God to whom we belong. Our goal is to be with Him. On that day, we will reign with him forever because we live in the light. It is a life of clear conscience, focused on the essentials of building relationships with God and each other instead of trivia. Too often, we waste so much energy on nonessentials. In the final analysis, our vision of life is a life in Christ. Christ is the goal of history and humanity. That is all we know and need to know about the future. Indeed, Jesus is coming into our lives. With Christ in us; our hearts will be full of joy.
But the Good News is that we already have a foretaste of this life in Christ. Whenever we live our lives in selfless love and service, we experience the joys of Jesus in our hearts. This is what St John is inviting us to. He wants us to be those trees that bear fruits and give life and healing to others. Indeed, as a priest, I find this to be one of the greatest ways one can live, to give oneself totally to God and to His people. Yes, we have to endure the trials of the apostolate but they are part of the whole process of purification of love and faith. But it is one of the most meaningful vocations one could live. In fact, the priestly and religious life is a real anticipation of the eternal life to come because it is a life of Christ. Of course, anyone who lives His vocation and responds generously to what the Lord has allotted to him or her will also find life to the fullest. Fullness of life is not confined to just the priesthood and religious life. A married life when lived to the full with our spouse and our children too will give great joy and meaning. A single life when lived in service to humanity and to the Church is equally rich and meaningful.
Hence, if there is anything, which could be holding us back from the joy of serving the Lord in freedom, then all we need to do is to give our hearts to Jesus. He wants to offer us true freedom from our anxieties and sinful habits of life. He comes to give us a fruitful life of love and peace. Yes, Jesus wants to rule our lives by the power of love. All He asks of us is to draw strength and life from Him just as the trees drew life from the river and “bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.”
Unless we give ourselves to Jesus, sin and disordered living will rule our lives and make us inward-looking. We must avoid allowing our hearts to become drowsy through sin and attachment to a sinful and self-indulgent way of life. This is because we are created to live a life of love and service. If not, we become gradually insensitive to goodness and love. The frightening prospect is that a heart does not become drowsy overnight. Just like the human heart, it slowly collects fats leading eventually to a heart attack; and in our case a spiritual attack.
Consequently, if we are to be ready to receive Jesus, we must be alert and watchful. Jesus tells us, “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” Indeed, we must avoid falling into the temptation of becoming spiritually lazy and inattentive to spiritual things. The worst is to fall into complacency and indifference. We begin with neutrality and indifference, but eventually it will lead us to sin. Very soon, we will become enemies of Christ and detractors of the Church. That is why we need to pray for His grace. We need to drink from Him the river of life so that we can give life to others. Unless we pray, we will lose focus and direction in life. Only prayer will enable us to see the face of God. Prayer is but an invitation to contemplate on the face of Christ. Unless we see the face of God in Christ, we cannot see the face of God in His people crying out to us for help. Indeed, Jesus could meet man only because He has met God and stayed in His presence.
Yes, we are given a lifetime to prepare our hearts to receive Christ. If we do not start preparing and perfecting our lives in holiness, when death comes, we would only regret but that would be too late. Before God, we would not be given a second chance. When that day comes, if our conscience is clear, then we meet God face to face only because Jesus is in our hearts. If we do not recognize Jesus now, how can we recognize God when we die? So let us give ourselves to Jesus completely, crying out “maranatha” as in the responsorial psalm so that Jesus lives in us. We must ask ourselves again and again, if the Lord were to come, can we stand with heads upright and with confidence before Him and our fellowmen with a clear conscience?Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore . https://www.catholic.sg/26-november-2016-saturday-34th-week-ordinary-time/
Tags: alcoholics anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Constant Contact With God, and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope, anxieties, anxieties of daily life, Be vigilant at all times pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man, constant contact with God, Deliver us, do not be afraid, Everything is possible with God, Fear, Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian, Four Signs of A Dynamic Person in Recovery, lk 21:34-36, LK 21:36, Lord, November 26 2016, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 95, rv 22:1-7, Third Step Prayer, worry