Homily for November 10th, 2016: Luke 17:20-25.
We are nearing the end of the year in the Church’s calendar. Two weeks from Sunday, the twenty-seventh of November, is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a new Church year. As we approach the threshold of this new year, the Church gives us readings about what has traditionally been called “the end time,” when Jesus will come again: not as he first came in Bethlehem, in the weakness and obscurity of a baby, born in a little village on the edge of the then known world; but in an event so dramatic that all will know that history’s final hour has struck.
From Jesus’ day to this people have wanted to know when this will be. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says that even he does not know this. “As for the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father only” (Mt. 24:36).
Hence, Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, when people claim to have a timetable, we should pay no attention to them: “There will be those who will say to you, ‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look here he is.’ Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.” Jesus’ return will be dramatic, but also unexpected. “For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will he Son of Man be in his day.”
Then comes a shocker: “First he [the Son of Man] must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.” Friends, this suffering and rejection continue today. Three years ago, Cardinal Dolan of
York, in his final address as outgoing President of the Bishops’
Conference, spoke about the worldwide persecution of Christians today. The 20th
century, he said, saw the death of half the total number of Christian martyrs
since Jesus’ death and resurrection. And in the not yet 17 years of this century,
a million Christians have already died because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Those martyrs are our brothers and sisters in the family of God, Dolan said. We
must pray for them, as well as for those still living, in U.S. Iraq and but also elsewhere, who are
facing cruel persecution. Pope Francis has said the same many times. I invite
you to do this in a special way in this Syria Mass.