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33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

As we near the end of the Liturgical year the church takes a pause to focus on the most basic of questions:  “what’s all this for anyway?”  The simple answer is, eternal life… but to me that answer is kind of a cop-out, because life itself is rarely simple, especially when you consider that our lives our played out in the context of our environment.  For some people, that environment is so difficult that all hope can be lost.  It is out of that reality that divine justice is best understood:  That all will be made right in the end.

The Word for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Malachi 3:19-20a
Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-19

This week’s readings continue our topic of the afterlife, reminding us that God, the just judge, will make everything right in the end.  Those who do evil in this life will be destroyed, and those that are on the side of light will be saved.  ,

Starting with a short reading from the prophet Malachi, literally “my messenger” in Hebrew (because the author feared retribution) gives us a view of post Exile Jerusalem in the time before Ezra and Nehemiah (around 445 BCE).  Here the prophet warns what will become of “evildoers” while there will be justice for those who “fear the Lord”.  This was a time of great spiritual upheaval in Jerusalem.  God loves his people, but the prophet finds that love is not being reciprocated.  It’s been almost 100 years since the joyful return from Exile, and the populace has forgotten what it means to “serve the Lord.”  Malachi message is a harsh reminder of what can happen when one turns away from God.

In the second reading Paul continues his discourse with the Thessalonians explaining how everyone should earn their keep, using their time with them as an example.  Though not directly tied to our theme, the idea of justice rings true:  there’s no such thing as a free ride.  A community depends on everyone doing their fair share with all due civility toward each other.  Paul finds that he must remind some of those in Thessalonica that they would do better attending to their own chores and minding their own business.

Finally, Luke gives us a rather pessimistic (but all too true) picture of what is to come.  This text, as spoken by Jesus, is often referenced by those looking for signs of the “end times”.  It is important to note here that Jesus’ words are not just a general warning for the ages, but more a prediction of events to come in their lifetimes.  Of course, much of what was predicted by Jesus had already come to pass as of the writing of this Gospel, so it is no surprise for those first listeners and readers that what Jesus has foretold came true.  As with Revelation, this Gospel is speaking of a specific moment in history, but it’s meaning is not lost as subsequent civilizations seemingly repeat the same mistakes.  Even in the face of these dire predictions, Jesus reminds us to stay true to his teaching… for it is through following him that one can be saved.  All too often these predictions are used to instill fear, when in fact Jesus is teaching us that, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  In other words, as Malachi teaches us today, “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” for those who follow the Lord.

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