u-s-catholic-sunday-reflections

A reflection for the thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jean Kelly reflects on the readings for November 13, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year C):

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

Reflection: Persevere in faith, not in fear

When as a middle-schooler I encountered for the first time the apocalyptic predictions of Nostradamus, which were related to me as gospel truth by my friends, I remember being sincerely afraid.  Fortunately, my father, a man of great faith and sensitivity, assured me that I had nothing at all to worry about. God would protect me, he said. He told me that more than 300 times in the Bible, the prophets, psalmists, and Christ himself tell us “Do not be afraid.”

In a way that only a kid can trust a good father, human or divine, my confidence was never again shaken by doomsday prophecies. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for those who might interpret this reading and others like it as a warning of current or imminent religious persecution. Participants in today’s culture wars often stoke up fear using scripture to support claims that only those “chosen” will survive a culling that is coming soon. They call for duty-bound soldiers to fight efforts by the Church to be more merciful and loving instead of punitive and exclusionary. They polarize and justify belligerence against faith leadership.

While it is tempting to cherry-pick only those scriptural passages that support existing beliefs and ignore those that do not, doing so deprives us of the richness of the metaphorical and historical meanings of Christ’s teaching. We must also be careful not to connect seemingly unrelated current events to predictions in the Bible. Psychologists call this apophenia, the human tendency to see connections and patterns that are not really there, a phenomenon that gives rise to conspiracy theories.

Understanding the historical context of Luke 21 is important. Most theologians agree that Jesus was predicting the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which occurred between 70 and 135 AD. During that time, Romans did indeed strip the Temple Mount bare: every stone was thrown down. Ultimately, the Jewish people were driven from Judea and Jerusalem, and scattered to the four corners of the earth. 

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In other words, the events predicted in today’s reading happened long ago, and will not happen next month.

But if Christ’s words still cause consternation—a quickening of your pulse, an amplification of doubt and worry, a questioning of your readiness for a coming test, I encourage you to re-read Jesus’s reassuring words and trust their truth: “I, myself shall give you a wisdom” and “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” As Luke writes, by our perseverance—in faith, not in fear—we will secure our lives.

About the author

Jean P. Kelly

Jean P. Kelly is the host of the podcast about lectio divina, “Read. Pray. Write. Searching for Answers, Finding Grace.” She is currently a novice Benedictine oblate at the St. Meinrad Archabbey.

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