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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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33rd Sunday in ordinary time

Father Karl Esker, C.Ss.R.

Welcome to the Good Word, a reflection on the readings of the daily liturgy. I am Father Karl Esker, a Redemptorist priest.

In a world full of hatred and violence, there is little room for hope, but that is exactly what our readings this Sunday call us to do: persevere through hope in God’s presence and protection.

In the Gospel Jesus predicts the destruction of the Jewish temple: “The days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Of course, everyone wants to know when and what the signs will be. Jesus really does not answer. He speaks of wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, and plagues: frightful things that have occurred and continue to occur with each century that passes. It is interesting that Luke adds Jesus’ comment: “Do not be terrified, for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”

Malachai had prophesied that the day would come “blazing like an oven,” when the proud evildoers would be reduced to stubble. Unfortunately, the destruction they cause destroys the lives of many innocent people as well. Today we witness the destruction of large portions of the earth by human-caused disasters as well as natural ones. And there are always those who declare that the end of the world is here, not necessarily by the hand of God but by the hand of human beings.

Thus begins the politics of fear. The problem of the politics of fear is that we turn on each other and point a finger at the other for all the evils that surround us without admitting the destruction that our own words or actions may be causing.

Jesus warned his followers that they would be persecuted. Yet he tells them, “Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” That wisdom is the recognition of God and God’s place in our world and in our lives.

We cannot defeat our adversaries by preparing to use the same arms and strategies of evil against them. We can only demonstrate the truth by proclaiming the sovereignty and goodness of God and working for that good by living in a way that shows the goodness and value that God has placed in every person and in the world.

We who believe in God and in Jesus Christ our Savior try to live that, but beaten down by events, some of us will be tempted to give in to the ways of the world, which is why Jesus also admonishes his disciples, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians tells them and us the same thing. Some members of the community had become so consumed by the idea that the end of the world was upon them that they had stopped working and were undermining the efforts of others. Paul tells them, “Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” We must never become tired of doing the good.

Apocalyptic pronouncements, such as Jesus’ prophecy over the destruction of Jerusalem and even the book of Revelation, were not made to instill the fear of God in an unbelieving generation but to instill hope in the community of believers. Our loving God is supreme over all, and in Jesus’ death and resurrection we have the vision and the promise of God’s victory in and for us. That is why we continue to love and forgive our enemies, to do good to those who would hurt us, and to pray for those who persecute us, as Jesus commanded us.

May God bless you.