Thursday November 29, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Daniel 6:12-28) Gospel (St. Luke 21:20-28)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord is talking about the things that are going to happen when the end draws near. We can understand from this, of course, why the people of Saint Paul’s time thought that the end of the world was right around the corner - that is, that the Second Coming was going to come at any time – because they had seen Jerusalem surrounded by soldiers. Jerusalem was laid siege from the year 66 until the year 70, and the Roman soldiers literally surrounded the city. What happened is that every single Christian person, knowing that this is what the Lord had said and knowing what Saint John said in the Book of Revelation was going to happen, fled the city – exactly what Our Lord told them to do. So when the Romans destroyed the city in the year 70, not one single Christian person was killed because they had all fled out to the hills and out into the country. Yet, at the same time, it was on a Jewish feast day. All the Jewish people had gathered in the city of Jerusalem for the feast on the day that the Romans destroyed it. Millions of Jewish people were killed in that one day because they did not let a single one escape except for the ones that they wanted to take into captivity. And so all those things had happened.
But we recognize, once again, that this is simply a prefigurement of what will happen when the end finally does come. We will see the New Jerusalem surrounded by the soldiers, that is, by those who are the enemies of the Church. They will try to destroy the Church just as the Roman soldiers destroyed Jerusalem. And yet, the Lord tells us once again not to worry and not to be afraid. He says that men will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth. "But you," He says, "stand up straight, hold your head high because the day of your redemption is at hand." That is the Christian response to this – not to be afraid, not to be worried, not to be all upset and anxious, but to have confidence in God.
It is exactly what Daniel did. He is thrown into the lions’ den, but he was totally confident in the Lord. And the Lord delivered him from the jaws of the lions. It is interesting to hear what this pagan king had to say about God. He says, "He is the living God, enduring forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed and His dominion shall be without end. He is a deliverer and a savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth." Well, that could come out of the mouth of any saint, if we listen to those words, because that is who God truly is. He is the living God; He is eternal; He is all-powerful. He is the One who created the lions and He can certainly deliver us from the lions. And He is the One who created everyone and everything else and He will deliver us from all of that as well. So we need not fear.
The other thing that we need to focus on, when we see these various things going on and people are worried and upset about all that is happening, is to remember that in Jerusalem at the time that it was destroyed there were indeed signs in the sky. There were signs in the sun and the moon. The people of Jerusalem saw, for instance, flaming horses and chariots going through the sky at night. They saw frightening omens in the sky. I do not think any of us have seen anything like that. Again, when you think about what happened in the year 70 and then you project it into the future for when things will happen, God is going to give clear and unmistakable signs. We will be able to see what is happening on the natural level but we will also be able to see that the things of nature themselves are going to be different. And then there will be some supernatural things that will be happening.
And so, again, we do not need to be running around worried. We need to know what we are looking for and we need to trust in God. He tells us, when we see these things happening: "Do not run away afraid, but stand up, hold your head high and know that the day of your redemption is at hand."
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.