Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s gospel begins with the disciples marveling at the glory of the Temple. It must have been something to see.

The Temple they looked at was one of the wonders of the world[1], and Jesus heard them and said, this really doesn’t matter. Jesus is adamant that we Christians are not to get flustered, distraught, or full of anxiety. These feelings are reserved for those who refuse to commit their lives to the Kingdom of God. What we need to do is to give witness to Christ, particularly in the face of persecution. Yes: particularly in the face of persecution

The Lord was not just addressing the early Christians when he said that you will be delivered up to those who will murder you for being faithful. He was talking to all those throughout the ages who were persecuted for living their faith. And he was talking to everyone of us who is mocked for hanging on to what the media presents as a dated morality. He was talking to all of us who fight for traditional family values and responsibility over the forces that deify self-gratification. All of these people, from the martyrs of the past to those living in your house, may be put to death, or at least commit social suicide for their Christian witness, but patient endurance will save their lives. Patient endurance will save our lives. That phrase, "patient endurance" is the New Testament catch word for martyrdom. By patient endurance we will be saved. By becoming martyrs we will be saved. We Christians are called to martyrdom[2].

That is the truly frightening part of today's Gospel. We must become martyrs to be saved. Affirming our Christianity demands suffering. The Temple that was built in Jerusalem might be destroyed, but the Temple that is the Life of Christ within us will never be destroyed.

In the sixth chapter of the Book of Revelation the Book of God's plan for mankind is brought forward, sealed with seven seals. When the fifth seal is opened the voice of the martyrs cries out from their place underneath the altar, the place where the blood of sacrificial animals was caught: How Long, O Lord, How Long? They shriek[3]. Our pleas join theirs. “How long, O Lord, how long do we have to keep on suffering while evil doers prosper? When will the world see the purpose of our suffering? When will we be vindicated?

Today's gospel is indeed frightening. But it is not frightening for the reason some fundamentalists would give: the fear of the end. NO. It is frightening because Jesus demands that we give witness, become martyrs… if we want to be saved.

It is frightening because the Lord demands that we stand up for him, his kingdom and the Christian way of life in a materialistic and self-centered world. It is frightening because it demands that we accept grief from those who mock us.

It is frightening because it proclaims that only by patient endurance can we be saved.

This is the challenge of Christianity. We conclude this Church year praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials that are essential to our affirmation of Jesus Christ.

[1] It was brand, spanking new. It had taken fifty years for Herod to rebuild the Temple. The original Temple, the Temple that Solomon built, was destroyed by the Babylonians at the beginning of the captivity in 588 BC. When the Israelite returned to Jerusalem around 528, the people had all to do to build shelters for themselves. It took about fifteen years for them to begin to build a new Temple. This was modest undertaking, merely adequate, but the best the people at the time could do. As the centuries progressed, this temple was enlarged and refurbished, but it never approached the magnificence of the Temple of that Solomon built. In the year 26 B.C. Herod decided to restore the Temple to the Glory of Solomon’s Day. The work had just been completed when Jesus’ disciples looked on amazed at the precious stones and votive offerings.
[2] Sunday 18th November, 2007, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss Peter and Paul. Readings: Malachi 3:19-20.The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice-Ps 97(98):5-9. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12. Luke 21:5-19
[3] Cfr Psalm 35.

ilustration: El Greco, The Opening of the Fifth Seal (The Vision of St John)1608-14, Oil on canvas, 222, 3 x 193 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris