Thursday in the 34th Week of the Year, November 28, 2019

Lift Up Your Head For Your Salvation Is Nigh
Today’s story of the first reading, even if not historical, is edifying. It applies again to Antiochus IV “Epiphanes,” who obliged the people in his kingdom to pray only to his god, Baal-Zeus, of whom he pretended to be the manifestation. Of course, the Jews (Daniel) contested this order.
The destruction of Jerusalem and the signs of disaster in nature are for us signs of the trials of the Christian life and of the difficult coming of God’s kingdom among people. But let us not forget that we ourselves too, delay this kingdom, by our selfishness, our hunger for power, all the evil we cause one another. Yet, our meager efforts will help to bring salvation nearer. With the help of Christ present among us, we can grow in love, forgiveness, compassion, and peace. We should keep our heads raised in hope.

1 Reading: Daniel 6:12-28
Some men rushed into the upper chamber of Daniel’s home and found him praying and pleading before his God. Then they went to remind the king about the prohibition: “Did you not decree, O king, that no one is to address a petition to god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king; otherwise he shall be cast into a den of lions?” The king answered them, “The decree is absolute, irrevocable under the Mede and Persian law.” To this they replied, “Daniel, the Jewish exile, has paid no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you issued; three times a day he offers his prayer.” The king was deeply grieved at this news and he made up his mind to save Daniel; he worked till sunset to rescue him. But these men insisted. They said, “Keep in mind, O king, that under the Mede and Persian law every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.” So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den. To Daniel he said, “May your God, whom you serve so constantly, save you.” To forestall any tampering, the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den. Then the king returned to his palace for the night; he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers. Since sleep was impossible for him, the king rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lions’ den. As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has the God whom you serve so constantly been able to save you from the lions?” Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever! My God has sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me. For I have been found innocent before him; neither to you have I done any harm, O king!” This gave the king great joy. At his order Daniel was removed from the den, unhurt because he trusted in his God. The king then ordered the men who had accused Daniel, along with their children and their wives, to be cast into the lions’ den. Before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: “All peace to you! I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared: “For he is the living God, enduring forever; his Kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be without end. He is a deliverer and saviour, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, and he delivered Daniel from the lions’ power.”

Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3:68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74
R. (59b) Give glory and eternal praise to him.

“Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.” R.

“Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.” R.

“Ice and snow, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.” R.

“Nights and days, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.” R.

“Light and darkness, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.” R.

“Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.” R.

“Let the earth bless the Lord,
praise and exalt him above all forever.” R.

Alleluia: Lk 21:28
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Luke 21:20-28
Jesus said to his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Today’s first reading contains what is perhaps the most famous of the Daniel stories, his consignment to the lions’ den. The apocalyptic view of the author of Daniel repeatedly sees four successive kingdoms: Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks, all of which play a part in his end-time worldview.
Ignoring the king’s mandate that no god is to be invoked by any citizen for thirty days, with all petitions being addressed to the king, Daniel ignores the decree and continues to invoke the God of Israel. Grieved that Daniel does not desist and faced with the irrevocable character of the decree, Darius places Daniel in the den of fierce lions, but God prevents the animals from doing him any harm. The king removes Daniel from the den and decrees that the God of Daniel be reverenced throughout the empire.
In Luke’s end-time discourse, there is a notable divergence here. The fall of Jerusalem had been seen as part of the eschatological scene. By the time Luke’s Gospel was written, Jerusalem was already destroyed and the end had not occurred. Hence, the fall of the city in this gospel is “de-eschatologized” and is simply placed in an historical setting. It is then followed by the end-time descriptions of the heavens, the seas, and the terrified population. But the elect should stand firm, for their redemption is close at hand.
While apocalyptic language is not always easy to understand, there is one over-arching message: the sovereignty of God. We really do not know what form the end of history will take, and, even less, the time of its occurrence. But we do know that God has an ultimate plan and that all unfolds according to his providence.

Keep your heads high in hope was the message of today. Keep hoping when there are wars and violence. Keep hoping when there is much injustice. Keep hoping when there is much hatred and discrimination. Keep hoping for there is a future. Christ is with you, and with him we can do away with evil in us and in our world. Keep your heads high, and may God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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