Sunday, November 14, 2021


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Readings: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 15(16):5,8-11; Hebrews 10:11-14,18; Mark 13:24-32

Picture: cc Jernej Furman

My dear friends, have you taken an A-R-T yet? What did it feel like? What result did you get? As you know, A-R-T stands for antigen rapid test, which is a quick way to detect a possible COVID-19 infection. Similarly, our Mass readings also provide us with a kind of A-R-T, a convenient test to indicate whether or not we have a certain kind of infection.

As you’ve probably already noticed, the first reading and the gospel share certain characteristics. They are both examples of apocalyptic literature. This type of writing is addressed to a particular kind of audience, to people suffering persecution, people at the bottom of the prevailing societal order. Scholars tell us that the first reading was originally intended for Jews who had been conquered by the Greeks, and the gospel for those being oppressed by Roman rule.

To such people, the apocalyptic message is simple. Yes, you are suffering now, but do not to be afraid, because the current world order will not last forever. A time is coming, a time of great distress, when everything will be disrupted, turned upside down, when even those who are powerful now will be made powerless. After which, God’s previously hidden presence will be made manifest. And those who had remained faithful to God will be gathered and rewarded. While those who had been unfaithful will be punished.

How do you think you would feel, if you heard this message? Well it depends, right? If I were suffering for being faithful to God in a hostile world, then I might feel encouraged and hopeful, I might find the strength I need to persevere. But if I were unfaithful, if I had somehow allowed myself to become a friend of the world, then I’d likely feel anxious and afraid, or I might perhaps try to ignore the message. Whatever it is, my reaction serves as an indicator of a possible infection. It tells me whether I have been contaminated by the world.

My dear friends, I think this is also what our readings can do for us today. They serve as an A-R-T. Not an antigen rapid test, but an apocalyptic reading test. My reaction to them may indicate how faithful I am to God, whether I am truly striving for that eternal perfection won by the single sacrifice of Christ, or whether I have been infected by the world.

And in case this test, this A-R-T, isn’t reliable enough, I can supplement it with a P-R-T, a pandemic reaction test. I may examine my reaction to the distress and disruption caused by the pandemic. Am I, like most others, looking forward only to things going back to the way they were before? Is my idea of the new normal just another version of the comfortable past? Or am I also yearning for a radically different future, where the poor will be better provided for, the environment better cared for, where God’s kingdom will more fully come, God’s will be more truly done, on earth as it is in heaven?

Sisters and brothers, if we were to honestly submit ourselves to a spiritual A-R-T today, what will it feel like? What result will we get? How might we draw ever closer to Christ, today?

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