November 11, 2013

Homily: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2013, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

There’s an old joke about a little boy who noticed that his great-grandmother read the Bible constantly. One day he asked her why. She answered, “I’m cramming for finals!”

There is plenty to make us anxious in today’s readings. Malachi prophesies doom for evildoers. Jesus says his followers will be. And why? “Because of my name.”

Even family and friends will hand you over, everyone will hate you. And why? Again, “Because of my name.”

But then Jesus says two strange things.

1. In a time of persecution, don’t prepare your defense. Now any self-respecting “Law & Order” addict can tell you that you never go into a courtroom unprepared. Witnesses have to be prepped.

2. Don’t worry. Jesus doesn’t say this in so many words, but he assures us that not a hair of our head will be destroyed. How can he make such a claim?

If we look back at the reading from Malachi, we read, “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” There’s that “name” again! In the King James translation, which is more literal, we find “there will arise the sun of justice with healing in his wings.” What a wonderful image of protection!

So suppose we knew that the end was coming on December 21, 2013. How should we spend the next two years? Try to be extra good? Memorize the bible (cram for finals)? Just keep our nose clean, sit back and wait? St. Paul is very clear: keep on working!

Do we need to live in fear? Well, yes and no. Not in fear of persecution that may or may not come. Not in fear of the end. But if we live in “fear of God’s name,” if the deepest abiding respect for God is the hallmark of our lives, we are assured that, no matter what happens, we have nothing to fear. Really.

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