Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 13, 2016
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Sunday Reading Meditations
In 2005, I had the grace of participating in the dedication of new churches in two of the parishes where I was the pastor. The Church of the Divine Holy Spirit was dedicated in January and the Church of the Little Shepherds of Fatima was dedicated in May. The year 2005 was the most intense and joyful year of my life. The dedication of a church is a most beautiful liturgical ceremony. It is exciting to see what was built finally being dedicated to God. After great effort and trials, ultimately everything is finished. It is worthy! Now we can celebrate. We were awesome! However, the Cardinal of Lisbon said in his homily that the building was not important. At that moment, I was thinking: What!? How can you say that? But he continued, insisting that the stones of the building were not important but what was really important was for each of the members of the parish to become a living stone. He was quoting Saint Peter when he said: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Pet 2:5).
Today’s Gospel says that some people were boasting about the Temple of Jerusalem. They were praising the solidity and beauty of the building. It seemed indestructible! In fact, the structure was immense, with many of its stones measuring nearly 40 feet in length. The temple was their pride and confidence. Their hope was placed in the solidness and greatness of the edifice. The costly stones symbolize what we can do, what human enterprise is and even what we can do for God.
Jesus said to the people: “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Lk 21:6). Jesus says that our hope cannot be placed in what we do, even in what we do for God, in our good works. We cannot place our hope in the fruits of our conquests. It is not possible to place our hope in the transitory.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, which occurred in the year 70 A.D. He is also talking about the end of the world. The Prophet Malachi says in the first reading: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven” (Mal 3:19).
One day, everything that is vain will be destroyed. Like the destruction of Jerusalem, at different moments in history we have already had a foretaste of the last day. Catastrophic scenarios have occurred many times over the centuries. Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines last week. Seeing what happened there, we can easily understand how fragile life is. Without God, we are nothing.
How can we not be frightened by the unpredictability of the destruction of what we have and love?
Jesus says in the Gospel: “Do not be terrified […] not a hair on your head will be destroyed” (Lk 21:9). The first reading says: “For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Mal 3:20). This means that if we recognize that our salvation is not in what we do or in what we have but totally in God, then even destruction can become “the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
In order to become living and indestructible stones of the temple, we need conversion. It is a process that never ends. Jesus says: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk 21:19).
The Carthusian monks have the following motto: “The Cross is steady while the world is turning.” In all the seasons of our lives, Jesus’ Cross is the steady point where we can find refuge and protection.
O Lord, help us to trust totally in you amidst the instability of this world. May we always live in union with you. May our faith in you obtain hope and steadfastness for us. Amen.
Sunday Reading Meditations