Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 17, 2019
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today’s readings invite us to think about where we put our hope. Do we hope in God or in what passes away?
The Second Temple in Jerusalem was initially a modest structure that Herod the Great refurbished into a very impressive edifice. Last time I went to the Holy Land, I had the opportunity to visit the archeological site of the Temple. In the underground chambers, we can still admire the “costly stones” referred to in today’s Gospel and imagine the Temple’s magnificence.
However, to people who were praising the Temple and its magnificence, Jesus declares: “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 warns us not to put our hope in what we do, even what we do for God. There is a great temptation to worship the fruit of our action. We want to be in control of every situation.
When we put our hope in success, people or circumstances, sooner or later we experience impatience and sadness. On the contrary, when we truly hope in God, we experience the promise of today’s collect prayer: “constant gladness” and “full and lasting happiness.”
At the end of the liturgical year, we are reminded of the transience of life: “Lo, the day is coming” (Mal 3:19). The day of Jesus’ coming will be the fulfillment of history and the cosmos.
We need not wait for the Last Day. Fulfillment can begin now, in our hearts, through the work of our personal conversion. In today’s second reading, Saint Paul says: “[W]e instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 Thes 3:10). We can only be nourished in spiritual terms if we work hard on our inner transformation. Work here means an intensification of the cry of the heart: “You will call upon me, and I will answer you” (Jer 29:12). It is necessary to work with perseverance: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk 21:19), in order to gain “the prize of everlasting happiness” (Prayer over the offerings).
We need to fill the void in our heart with God’s grace. In the first reading, the prophet Malachi says: “[T]here will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Mal 3:20). Let us be illuminated by God’s light! Let us cling to Our Lord, let us put our hope only in him! As Psalm 73 says: “To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord” (Ps 73:28). Amen.