Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
It was the year 1999, a time when most of the seminarians I work with weren’t even born yet. There was concern that computers would have difficulty transitioning from the year 1999 to 2000, and some people were worried there was going to be a meltdown of epic proportion. Companies sold “Y2K” survival kits, people bought batteries and flashlights, stocked up on food and water, expecting the power to go out when at that point it was going to be every man, woman, and child to fend for themselves.
Spoiler alert: The world did not end.
It is fitting that as the Liturgical Year comes to completion on Saturday, November 27, that our Scripture readings, in their themes and images, begin to prepare us for the end-time. The Book of Daniel had an extraordinary impact on the first Christians, on those who were trying to understand who Jesus is. The Book of Daniel is an example of apocalyptic literature. We automatically think of apocalyptic as the “end of the world,” but it is more of a “pulling back of the veil,” a “revealing something.” Earlier in the Book of Daniel, the author recounts, “As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man. When he reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples, and tongues will serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.”
Jesus’ preferred title in the Scriptures was “son of man”—and Jews of this time who heard him speak would have made the clear connection with the Book of Daniel.
It’s easy for us to get preoccupied with when the world is going to end and to constantly interpret whether or not tragic events we see in the world are a sign that the end is near. As the Gospel confirms, it’s not really a matter of when these apocalyptic warning signs will occur, but whether we will be ready for that time. Another way to put it: The problem is not how the end of the world will happen, but how we should respond in the meantime. Focus not on what you see outside, but what is going on in your heart.
We are called to live in the present, building the future with peace, while placing our trust and hope in God. Jesus’ main interest is not to make specific predictions, because “only the Father knows” the day or the hour. Jesus’s focus is to point out to us the way to walk, today and in the future, to enter eternal life. Jesus is not only the final destination of our pilgrimage here on earth, but He is also present in our daily lives to accompany us and rescue us from following after false ways. If we truly remain committed to Christ, we do not really have anything to fear.
Reflection Questions: What fears or concerns do you find most often surfacing in your heart? How is God inviting you to take them to prayer?
Reflection by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB