02Dec 02 December 2017. Saturday of Week 34

1st Reading: Daniel 7:15-27

Daniel’s vision of the Beasts and its interpretation

As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever – forever and ever.”

Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped what was left with its feet; and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and concerning the other horn, which came up and to make room for which three of them fell out – the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that seemed greater than the others.

As I looked, this horn made war with the holy ones and was prevailing over them, until the Ancient One came; then judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom.

This is what he said: “As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth that shall be different from all the other kingdoms; it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them. This one shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High, and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law; and they shall be given into his power for a time, two times, and half a time. Then the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and totally destroyed. The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.”

Gospel: Luke 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

BIBLE

Realism and Hope

On this last day of the liturgical year our Scriptures blend realism with an exalted hope. If there are heavy clouds in the sky, they have contrasting sides; from below, they reflect darkness and signs of persecution, while from above they radiate sunlight and the enjoyment of eternal peace. The transition from darkness to light seems to be certain and sudden. Meanwhile we trust in God’s eternal plan for us and for the entire world. Whether in darkness or light, we are not alone but are united with all of God’s holy ones.

Daniel was terrified by the visions of the mind. A great persecution raged and the beast who made war against the holy ones was a brutal regime. He speaks of a mysterious period when the beast reigned — “for a year, two years, and a half-year.” It would be tedious to trace the symbolism of numbers through the Bible, but the essence is that we must persevere through times of trial, to finally win through. Only at the end will we see everything in proper perspective; for now the future remains wrapped in darkness.

Though his community have endured a time of severe trial (the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.) St Luke actually wrote during a peaceful breathing-space. Still he has the warning, “Be on guard not to become bloated with indulgence and worldly cares. The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap.” Faith seems to thrive more in hard times than during peace and prosperity. So Luke also advises, “Pray constantly.” Live in God’s presence and then you will “stand secure before the Son of Man” when he comes in full glory.

The thirty-four weeks of the church year are ending today. They do so with the message that the Lord Jesus will return suddenly, soon and gloriously.  We will now be graced with four weeks of special alertness during Advent. Since  we are surrounded by the grace of God, we can lay aside every hindrance and with eyes fixed on Jesus, persevere as his followers to the end.


At all times

Jesus warns against becoming so immersed in the attractions and cares of life that we fail to see beyond them. We need to step back and find space to be aware of the Lord and his presence to us. He urges us to be watchful, attentive to the Lord within and beyond all of life. Such watchfulness and attentiveness is at the heart of prayer. That is what prayer is, which is why the gospel says, “stay awake, praying at all times.”

The exhortation to pray at all times may sound strange to our ears. How can we pray at all times? Is it not something we do just on particular occasions? Paul says something similar when he calls on his Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:16). Jesus and Paul were calling for a contemplative stance towards life, a prayerful attentiveness to the Lord at all times, before all situations, in the midst of all our tasks. To help us do this, we could take a very short prayer drawn from the Scriptures and allow it to echo quietly in our hearts as we go about our day, a prayer like, “Lord, make haste to help me,” or, as we begin the season of Advent this evening, the simple Advent prayer, “Come Lord Jesus.”


4 Responses

  1. Sean O’Conaill

    This reflection is directly relevant to the tensions of this very moment in the history of the church.

    In 2003, warned of the possibility that a cancer might be incurable I had no option but to lapse into continuous internal recitation of the Rosary prayers. Later I varied that by memorising the prologue to the Gospel of John – the piece that ends with ‘and the darkness shall not overcome the light’. Through the mercy of God rather than my own invention my mind now reverts to this practice when I become anyway anxious.

    So it will be for all. The times will teach us to pray continuously, the Lord will wake beside us, and the sea will grow calm. Even while we discuss, we can pray also. Our minds were made for this lesson too!

  2. Pat Rogers

    Many thanks Seán, for your response — and I hope you’ll often feel drawn to add your reflections to the daily (& Sunday) homily notes. That’s why I try to upload a whole month’s worth of them at the start of each month, so that thoughtful people like yourself can have a chance to read ahead and share with us about how our Scripture Readings intersect with your actual life.

  3. Brian Fahy

    Gregory

    My neighbour across the back garden has just died. He was an old man nearing eighty, Peter MacGregor. I saw him a few days ago walking his dog on a cold and misty morning. We waved to one another but the cold kept me moving as I headed for the shop. On other occasions we have stopped and chatted for a while. Now he is gone.

    This morning I sat down to read the mass readings for Advent, which begins this weekend, and after reading Mark in English I went and read the text again in Greek (as you do!). The word that leapt out at me was the Greek word for be watchful and alert – gregoreite! I suddenly realised that this word sounds very familiar and sure enough we have our name ‘Gregory’ from this Greek verb, to be watchful, alert.

    We know not the day, nor the hour. Jesus tells his disciples to be awake at all times. We do not know the hour when the Son of Man will return. We do not know the hour when our own death will come. But we cannot simply live our lives on edge about those particular days. As Jesus says in his helpful story, it is like a man going away and leaving his servants in charge of his house. Being awake and on the job is what is needed every day. Life itself calls us to be awake.

    Be on your guard, we are also told, as one year ends and another begins. Guard against lazy ways and selfish attitudes. Live every day in a lively and wide-awake manner. Be sensitive to all that life is, to its joys and sorrows and to the needs of those around you. Be a Gregory – a watchful, alert person. Whenever the Lord comes, do not be found sleeping.

    This teaching of the Lord invests life with utmost meaning and worth. There no days for self-indulgence, which is a destruction of life, not a living of it. If God is a God of the living then we are called each day to be alive: Alive and alert. Watchful.

    Bring your best self, your prayerful self to the table of life. Let all your contacts with others be alive with kindness and thoughtfulness. Today is the day of the Lord. Today is the day for Gregory. We each have our own task in this world that flows from our own person and life story. There are people who look to us and hope to find help and inspiration in us, just as we look to find help in them.

    Let your spirit rise to this occasion. Take Gregory as a name. Be alive to the joy and goodness of your life. Enter the spirit and time of Advent and grow in its grace.

    Are you awake?

    Brian Fahy
    2 December 2017

  4. Sean O'Conaill

    #2 I will certainly do that, Pat. On our own ACI site I have my own ‘wake up’ reflection, attuned to these times of both darkness and expectation.

    https://acireland.ie/2018-year-rescue-belly-whale/

    Is it OK also to pass these ACP reflections on to our parishioners in St John’s, Coleraine, Co Derry, via a website on the threshold of launching – with an attribution and link to the ACP site?

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