Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
We have to be a bit surprised at the readings for this Sunday. Seems to be some negative, scary stuff. "A time unsurpassed in distress. Some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken." We recognize, of course, these are apocalyptic readings from the Old Testament. We notice the pain, the suffering. Even in the Gospel we find that Jesus’ words contain that same darkness. In both what the prophet Daniel and Jesus have to share the whole picture also includes the positive. In Daniel we read, "The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever." And in Mark we read Jesus saying, "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky."
We must take in the whole teaching, both the dark and the bright side in both sources: Daniel and Jesus. Eleonore Stump comments: "So what happens to Christians in bad times? Do they lose and lose and lose, as the Gospel of Matthew says? But what is losing? Is losing a matter of being hated, afflicted, and killed? Christ was hated, afflicted, and killed, too. And yet Christ did not lose on the cross, did he? He won."
"In this world there is the end of the story, when Christ’s true disciples will be hated and afflicted (here on earth). And then there is the real and final end of the story, at the last judgment (in heaven), where each person will see himself as he really is."
"At that last chapter of each human story, the First Reading says, some people will be perceived as the horror and disgrace that they really are. Others will shine like the splendor of the stars."
"The winners in the battle of life, those who shine like stars, are those who have turned many to justice, the First Reading says. Acting with courage and integrity for justice, goodness, and truth can get a person hated, afflicted, and even killed, can’t it? "
"And now we can see what it is to escape bad times. Escaping is not a matter of living at ease in prosperity, honored by the world around you. Escaping is managing not to be turned into a horror and a disgrace by your own cooperation with the evil all around you that masquerades as good. "
"This is an escape that God will give anyone who is willing to take up his cross daily."
"And so the losing of the cross, the willingness to be hated and afflicted for the sake of justice – that is the way to the final winning where God’s people shine with the splendor of the stars." (Sunday Website of St. Louis University)
You and I, it seems rather clearly, need to pray that we grab hold of the whole picture and make sure that Jesus is part of that whole picture of our lives. Carrying our cross alone could weigh us down physically, psychologically and spiritually. Jesus will never abandon you and me. "Take up your cross and come, walk with me."
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is the associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Chicago, Illinois.