Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reflections for the 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – All for God

One widow. Two small coins. An enormous sacrifice.

As Jesus watches, several people place their offerings in the Temple treasury. Many of them are wealthy. They're glad to give, but they give from their surplus. They don't commit their capital, so to speak; they merely invest their interest. And they do so without much care. They know they have plenty to fall back on. They aren't going to starve. They have a roof over their heads and clothing to wear. They probably even have some left over for a little fun.

But the widow is different. She probably seems a little nervous as she approaches the treasury. After all, she is about to give all she has to God. She doesn't know where her next meal will come from. Perhaps she doesn't have much of a place to call home. She certainly doesn't have a penny to spare. But she is still willing to commit totally to God. She trusts Him completely, certain that He will care for her. She bravely casts her two little coins into the treasury and walks away with her head held high.

All for God. That is the widow's motto. And God notices. 

Tuesday – The Kingdom That Will Last Forever

King Nebuchadnezzar was very nervous. The nightmare he'd had was plaguing him. He didn't understand it one bit, and he certainly didn't like that feeling. There was only one person he could think of who could help him settle his mind: Daniel, the Jewish official who had a knack for deciphering mysteries. He called Daniel at once.

Daniel was more than happy to obliged. He even told the king what his dream was before he proceeded to interpret it for him. The statue that the king had seen in his nightmare symbolized the great kingdoms of the world, Daniel explained, starting with Nebuchadnezzar himself as the head of pure gold and going downhill from there until the last kingdom was divided, partly weak and partly strong. 

In the days of that last kingdom, Daniel continued, God would do something new. He would set up a new kingdom, a different kind of kingdom, one that would break all the other kingdoms into tiny pieces with a single stone. This unique kingdom, however, would never be broken. It would last forever, never to be destroyed or conquered. 

Looking back through the lens of Jesus Christ, we Christians know exactly what this new kingdom is. This kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus Himself, and He is the stone not hewn by human hands, the incarnate Son of God, conceived by a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit. All other kingdoms fall before this Stone as His Kingdom spreads across the whole world. 

What is this Kingdom? On earth the Kingdom of God is found in the Church, the Body of Christ. But the Church and the Kingdom are not limited to this world. Because of Jesus' death and Resurrection, the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom stand open, and one day we will follow our brothers and sisters who have entered before us into eternal life. The Kingdom of Heaven, which the Church both foreshadows and participates in, with all its celestial glory, will indeed last forever.

King Nebuchadnezzar was, of course, extremely impressed with Daniel's interpretation of his dream, but he certainly did not understand its true meaning, even though he could appreciate its mysteries. It would take the coming of the Stone, the new King, Jesus Christ, for the king's dream to become crystal clear.

Wednesday – Persecution

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns us that being His followers will not be easy. “They will seize and persecute you,” He says, “They will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of My name.” Even those closest to us will turn their backs on us for our beliefs, and some Christians will die for their faith. We will be hated for proclaiming the name of Jesus and for standing up for what is good and true and beautiful. 

But we will not be alone in our sufferings and trials. We will not even have to speak for ourselves. Jesus assures us that we do not have to worry about what we will say when we stand before our persecutors: “I Myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”

Along with words of testimony, Jesus will also give us strength to persevere in our faith no matter how much persecution we have to suffer. If we hold fast to Him, ask for His help, and surrender to His love, we will emerge unbroken and step into eternity where Jesus waits to embrace us tenderly and wipe all the tears from our eyes.

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