Reflections

Friday in the 34th Week of the Year, November 29, 2019

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR
Introduction
In the famous chapter 7 of Daniel, a mysterious “Son of Man” (a human being) is announced. Is he an individual or a community? He belongs to both earth and heaven and will inaugurate a kingdom that comes as a gift from God, not as an earthly conquest. Jesus will apply this title to himself and purify it. The empires built on power and godlessness are ridiculed: they are statues with feet of clay, or like monstrous animals. God will judge them.
The faithful should keep hope in patience: God’s kingdom is near. There are not only tensions and conflicts inside God’s people and from outside: there are also signs of hope, and we should see these signs.
 
1st Reading: Daniel 7:2-14
I, Daniel, have been seeing visions in the night. I saw that the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea; four great beasts emerged from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings; and as I looked its wings were torn off, and it was lifted from the ground and set standing on its feet like a man; and it was given a human heart. The second beast I saw was different, like a bear, raised up on one of its sides, with three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth. “Up!” came the command “Eat quantities of flesh!” After this I looked, and saw another beast, like a leopard, and with four bird’s wings on its flanks; it had four heads, and power was given to it. Next I saw another vision in the visions of the night: I saw a fourth beast, fearful, terrifying, very strong; it had great iron teeth, and it ate, crushed and trampled underfoot what remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns. While I was looking at these horns, I saw another horn sprouting among them, a little one; three of the original horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for it; and in this horn I saw eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that was full of boasts. As I watched: Thrones were set in place and one of great age took his seat. His robe was white as snow, the hair of his head as pure as wool. His throne was a blaze of flames, its wheels were a burning fire. A stream of fire poured out, issuing from his presence. A thousand thousand waited on him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. A court was held and the books were opened. The great things the horn was saying were still ringing in my ears, and as I watched, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and committed to the flames. The other beasts were deprived of their power, but received a lease of life for a season and a time. I gazed into the visions of the night. And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man. He came to the one of great age and was led into his presence. On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants. His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed.
 
Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3:75-81
Mountains and hills! bless the Lord.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
 
Every thing that grows on the earth! bless the Lord.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
 
Springs of water! bless the Lord.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
 
Seas and rivers! bless the Lord.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
 
Sea beasts and everything that lives in water! bless the Lord.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
 
Birds of heaven! all bless the Lord.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
 
Animals wild and tame! all bless the Lord.
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him!
 
Gospel Acclamation: Luke 21:28
Alleluia, alleluia!
Stand erect, hold your heads high,
because your liberation is near at hand.
Alleluia!
 
Gospel: Luke 21:29-33
Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Think of the fig tree and indeed every tree. As soon as you see them bud, you know that summer is now near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’
 
Commentary
The four beasts of Daniel’s dream, familiar to us by now, represent the four empires. The winged lion (Babylon), plucked wings (Kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar); the bear (the Medes); the leopard (the Persians); the beast with the horn (the Hellenists who gave rise to Antiochus Epiphanes). Offsetting this vision of destruction is the emergence of God himself (the Ancient One). All the kingdoms lose their dominion. Finally the Son of Man, the messianic figure, appears and is accorded full honours and an everlasting dominion.
Written in the second century BC, the book exemplifies the strong eschatological expectation that was present before the dawn of Christianity. The fact is that the reign of God appeared in a totally unexpected way, which many people found impossible to understand or accept. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the time of the kingdom’s emergence. When all the signs are present, just as the signs in nature point to the arrival of summer, so too the kingdom has signs of its forthcoming emergence. This is a kingdom that is present already in the person of Jesus. Perhaps we too yearn too much for the future without realizing what it means to be presently citizens of the kingdom. What a blessing! Jesus once said there was never a person born of woman greater than John the Baptist, but that the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. That means each one of us.
 
Blessing
It is sometimes said by non-believers that Christians look up to heaven because they cannot deal with the world. Christ tells us that we have to deal with the world and to change it, to work towards “a new heaven and a new earth.” Let us try to do so with the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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