November 13, 2016 — Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Old Testament Book of Malachi, from which our First Reading comes on this 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, is the final Book of the Old Testament. Today’s particular reading is at the very close of that Book, thus it is among the final words prior to the New Testament Book of Matthew. Its message has to do with the end of time, the final judgment. Although we may think that Malachi is the actual name of the prophet author, most scholars concur that it represents exactly what it means in ancient Hebrew, which is “God’s messenger.”
Most scholars also agree that St. John the Baptist used this passage from Malachi in much of his preaching, as the basis for his common message, which was “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Malachi speaks of the “sun of justice with its healing rays.” Many people who are miraculously healed as well as many who undergo conversion (which is what St. John the Baptist called for when he declared “Repent!”) speak of a healing warmth. We are called in this passage to do good and to love.
In the Second Reading from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul points out to the Thessalonians and to those of us hearing this Holy Word that we are expected to be models for others. That is exactly what living a life of stewardship entails. It is not what we say or what we necessarily proclaim it is what we do. There is no question that being a good steward shows our families, our friends, our fellow parishioners, and anyone who may know us, what it means to be a Christian and a Catholic.
Paul states at the very beginning of this passage “You know how one must imitate us.” Paul knew full well that the example he offered when he was with people was what they would remember much more than what he said. He later declares, “…we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.” We are called to that same kind of replication, responding to others with love, and learning to give with no expectation of a return. Our reward is indeed in heaven.
Jesus reflects somewhat that “end of time” theme in today’s Gospel Reading from St. Luke. Chapter 21 in the Book of Luke is very near to the end of that book. The Gospel of Luke is the story of Jesus from His birth to His death to His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven. It clearly reads as presenting the Lord as someone to be emulated. It emphasizes how He lived and what He did. This example He presented to us corresponds to St. Paul’s call to be models in the Second Reading. Of course, this Gospel Reading also has some resemblance to our First Reading from Malachi. To put this reading in perspective it is followed (Chapter 22) by Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.
In this Gospel Reading Jesus is teaching in the Temple and Jesus says, “All that you see here (referring to the Temple and its adornments) — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” He is immediately asked, “Teacher, when will this happen?” As the Lord has affirmed many times prior to this, we cannot know the time or place. His message is that we must be ever prepared. Too often we understand that change is necessary (“Repent!”) in our lives, and that we are to follow the model presented to us by Jesus in our lives as well if we wish to be His disciples.
The challenge for us is to do it. We have often pointed out that living the life of a good steward requires action. It is not passive. There are those inevitable levels of stewardship progression: 1. Understanding what stewardship means; 2. Accepting that it is indeed what we need to do; 3. (and this is where the challenge lies) Doing what we need to do. However, Jesus warns us in this Gospel that it is not easy, and it may require sacrifice and the strength to withstand the attitudes of a world around us where living as Christ told us to is not always accepted. Our strength, of course, is in the Lord.