November 13, 2016
by Mark Latta
Creighton University's School of Dentistry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 159

Malachi 3:19-20a
Psalms 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Luke 21:5-19

Praying Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel is a clear example of things, especially things in and of the world, may not always be what they might seem to be. The disciples saw Herod’s temple, adorned with majestic articles but they could not see the spiritual desolation behind the façade. At the time, the temple’s veneer hid hypocrisy, oppression and abject rejection of Christ.

Jesus warned his followers about false teachers as he knew the untold secrets hidden by the grandeur of the temple. Jesus knew that external appearances and silver tongued teachers can be deceivers.  We are challenged to discern in our daily lives the true and often underlying meaning of many teachers of faith. St. Ignatius tells us to focus on both our emotions and intellect to detect and listen to the movement of the Holy Spirit within us as a key tool in seeing what may be behind a potential false prophet.

Of course not all false prophets are religious. Indeed much of the cacophony of information we are exposed to on a regular basis includes things that are not as they may seem at first glance. We see get-rich-quick schemes that preach a gospel of stocks, bonds and real estate. There are all kinds of schemers out there, some who will prey on the elderly and the less fortunate in society. We must always practice active discernment as a habit of our spiritual life- and not just in a formal religious context but in all parts of our life.

The next admonition from Jesus to his followers and to us as well is much harder to hear. We are not promised a worry-free, easy life on earth. In fact, Jesus explicitly makes it clear that his disciples will be hated and persecuted—but in those painful moments are wonderful opportunities for us to manifest our witness to the Gospel.

We who serve Christ in the world will inevitably face resistance, recrimination for our faith and even persecution. We however are promised hope, strength and support from God—if we have the wisdom to trust in Him. The Holy Spirit will carry us with God’s thoughts and words when on our own wisdom and effort we would be barren.

We all have moments of misery and insecurity—and these voids in us cannot be filled with the trappings of the world, money, success or worldly goods. Just like the temple exterior that hid the unsettled interior, our external veneer may not reflect our true interior disquiet. It is only through faith and a vibrant relationship with Jesus can we can find meaning and purpose, even when we are in painful or uncomfortable encounters. We must become aware of the comfort that God can give us by helping us turn negatives into positives, tragedies into triumphs, heartaches into moments of grace.  

Our service will not be easy and it will be at times tiring.  It’s hard to put others’ needs ahead of our own. It’s often difficult for us to take the right path in our own lives when it is often easier to take shortcuts. We need our imagination to see the return of Jesus in His glory to help sustain us.

We should be comforted by the fact that we are not pioneers but followers and that God will hold us in His heart throughout all our life.

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