33rd Sunday of Ordinary time, cycle C

13th November 2016

The first reading is from the last section of the book of Malachi. In the Hebrew this is Chapter 3, but in the Greek version it is Chapter 4. Cyrus, the king of Persia who became the ruler of Babylon in the 6th century BC, had high ideals for society and a policy of returning deportees back to their homelands. We know of this from the Cyrus cylinder which was discovered in 1869 in the ruins of the city of Babylon and is in the British Museum; in the Bible, the book of Isaiah the prophet interpreted this return to their own land as brought about by their God through Cyrus. But those who returned were not all as good living as they should be and so, in the book of Malachi, we hear today of God’s punishment upon them, but for those who are good or repent, God will come “with healing in his wings.”

In Thessalonica, although Paul had never given this impression, there were those who acted as though the end of the world was on their door-step; we have heard before that some of them even idled away their time and relied on the generosity of fellow Christians for their livelihood. So in this reading for today, Paul reminds them of his activity and self-sufficiency when he was with them and that they should imitate him and not be a burden to others. He was a tent-maker and could ply this trade as well as preach the Good News, wherever he went.

Luke tells us about Jesus in the form of a journey that He makes towards Jerusalem and towards the climax and end of His life. In today’s reading Jesus arrives in Jerusalem with its great Temple and central administration, and where there will be disaster. The reading parallels what was already written by Mark (in chapter 13), but the questions “when will this happen” and “what sign will there be” which are not really answered in Mark’s account, are used by Luke to give a lesson for life. He is writing after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and when Christians have already suffered persecution. The traumas of life are not a sign of the end of the world and the final reckoning, but are part of the pattern of life; a pattern going as far back as the time of the slavery of the people of the Bible in Egypt and of the Exodus brought about by God; a pattern repeated in the Exile in Babylon and their return under Cyrus to the promised land; and a pattern in Jesus’ life through trial and execution to new Risen life.

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