Skip to comments.Father Cantalamessa on the End of the World - Pontifical Preacher on Sunday's Gospel
Posted on 11/18/2006 2:41:02 PM PST by NYer
ROME, NOV. 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday's liturgy.
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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (b)
Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
The Gospel of the second to last Sunday of the liturgical year is the classic text on the end of the world. There has always been someone who has taken it upon themselves to wave this page of the Gospel in the face of their contemporaries and provoke psychosis and fear. My advice is to be calm and to not let yourself be in the least bit troubled by these visions of catastrophe.
Just read the last line of the same Gospel passage: "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." If neither the angels nor the Son (insofar as he is man and not insofar as he is God) know the day or hour of the end, is it possible that a member of some sect or some religious fanatic would know and be authorized to announce it? In the Gospel Jesus assures us of the fact of his return and the gathering his chosen ones from the "four winds"; the when and the how of his return (on the clouds between the darkening of the sun and the falling of the stars) is part of the figurative language of the literary genre of these discourses.
Another observation might help explain certain pages of the Gospel. When we talk about the end of the world on the basis of the understanding of time that we have today, we immediately think of the absolute end of the world, after which there can be nothing but eternity. But the Bible goes about its reasoning with relative and historical categories more than with absolute and metaphysical ones. Thus, when the Bible speaks of the end of the world, it intends quite often the concrete world, that which in fact exists for and is known by a certain group of people, their world. It is, in sum, the end of a world that is being treated not the end of the world, even if the two perspectives at times intertwine.
Jesus says: "This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place." Is he mistaken? No, it was the world that was known to his hearers that passed away, the Jewish world. It tragically passed away with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. When, in 410, the Vandals sacked Rome, many great figures of the time thought that it was the end of the world. They were not all that wrong; one world did end, the one created by Rome with its empire. In this sense, those who, with the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001, thought of the end of the world, were not mistaken ...
None of this diminishes the seriousness of the Christian charge but only deepens it. It would be the greatest foolishness to console oneself by saying that no one knows when the end of the world will be and forgetting that, for any of us, it could be this very night. For this reason Jesus concludes today's Gospel with the recommendation that we "be vigilant because no one knows when the exact moment will be."
We must, I think, completely change the attitude with which we listen to these Gospels that speak of the end of the world and the return of Christ. We must no longer regard as a punishment and a veiled threat that which the Scriptures call "the blessed hope" of Christians, that is, the return of our Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The mistaken idea we have of God must be corrected. The recurrent talk about the end of the world which is often engaged in by those with a distorted religious sentiment, has a devastating effect on many people. It reinforces the idea of a God who is always angry, ready to vent his wrath on the world. But this is not the God of the Bible which a psalm describes as "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, who will not always accuse or keep his anger forever ... because he knows that we are made of dust" (Psalm 103:8-14).
This Sunday in the Maronite liturgical calendar, begins the 'Season of Announcement', beginning with the Announcement to Zechariah
The Season of Announcement is a commemoration of those events surrounding and culminating with the incarnation of Jesus. The season opens with the announcement to Zechariah that John, the Forerunner of Jesus, was to be born.
Mention of the archangel Gabriel, whose name means "God is strong," is found in the Old Testament. The archangel appeared to the prophet Daniel and spoke of the end of time when God will come to judge his people (Daniel 8:16-26; 8:21-27). In the New Testament, the appearance of Gabriel to Zechariah is an indication that Gabriel is completing his mission and that the final days have begun. Although two millenia have intervened since the birth of John the Forerunner, it must always be recalled that we are living in the "end times" - the fulfillment of all that has been promised.
Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, a descendant of Aaron, a member of the priestly caste. This appearance took place while Zechariah was fulfilling one of the priestly functions, the offering of incense at the Temple altar.
The prophecy of a birth of a son was not only good news for Israel, but also good news for the aged Zechariah and Elizabeth. For years they had been living under the curse of having no children. Gabriel now told them that Elizabeth, in her old age, was to give birth to a son. The news given to Zechariah and Elizabeth recalls the promise given to Abraham and Sarah: they too were childless, but were promised descendants.
Although he knew that nothing is impossible for God, Zechariah doubted the message. In order to bring him to belief, Gabriel gave him a sign: Zechariah was to be mute until the birth of his son. This sign given to Zechariah is intended for all of us. John the Forerunner is the link between the Old and New Covenants. With the coming of the Savior, the Old will be silenced and teh New Covenant proclaimed. Filled with the spirit, we cry out with Zechariah, "Blessed are you, O God!"
The early Church Fathers provide us with an interesting epilogue to this account. They taught that Zechariah was martyred because he refused to disclose John's hiding place to Herod's soldiers (Matthew 23:35).
Source: Maronite Divine Office
Two weeks ago was the Children's liturgy (Father sets aside the first Sunday of the month and works with the youth who serve as acolytes, 'deacon' (only for the dialogue), peace bearers, and taking up the Sunday collection). The reading that Sunday was about the offering of incense, inside the Temple of Jerusalem (sorry, I'll have to look it up). Anyway, the young man who did the reading described the Sanctuary within the Temple. He read the text but lacked excitement. So afterwards, I pulled him aside in front of his mother, father and siblings and 'filled in the blanks'. I explained that the curtain in the Temple was several layers thick and that the priest could only enter once per year. When he did so, they tied a rope around his leg so that in the event something untold should occur (he passed out or died), they could extract him. The boy's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, as did those of his family.
Sometimes, providing details to ancient events, can spark a flame in one's heart. He paid extra attention to last week's readings :-)