Rupture and Continuity in the Lord 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time C

Rupture and Continuity in the Lord 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time C

Malachi 3:19-20 A; Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

            Today’s gospel begins with Jesus and his disciples in, by, or near the holy Jerusalem Temple. The Temple was the site of worship, especially of sacrifice, for the Jewish people. It was a magnificently beautiful building. 

         As the disciples are admiring its beauty, Jesus surprises them by prophesying that one day it will de destroyed. To understand what Jesus meant with this prophesy it is necessary to know the various meanings the Temple had for the Jewish people at the time of Jesus.

         Pitre explains that the Jerusalem Temple was believed to be God’s dwelling place on earth, but not in an exclusive sense (1 Kings 8). Since the Temple was the place where God’s presence was most intense only in the Temple was sacrifice to God permitted (Deuteronomy 12).[1]

Since the Temple was believed to be where God was most present on earth it also was understood as representing both earthly and heavenly realities.[2] For this reason, explains an ancient Jewish historian, every aspect of the Temple represented various aspects of earth and heaven.  For example, while a huge basin of water in the Temple symbolized the sea, the lamp symbolized the planets in the heavens above.

         This means that when Jesus is prophesying that the Temple will be destroyed, asserts Pitre, Jesus is prophesying not only the destruction of the Temple itself, which took place in 70 A.D., but the destruction of all that the Temple represents, the entire universe. For this reason, immediately after describing how not a stone of the Temple will be left standing upon each other, Jesus describes the end times when, “Nation will rise against nation”, when people will faint “with fear… for the power of the heaven will be shaken. And then [in reference to the divine being from chapter seven of the book of Daniel 7] they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Matthew 21:26-27 RSVCE)” to judge the living and the dead.

         The first reading for today from the prophet Malachi reveals that the day of judgement when the entire universe will be set on fire will also be a day of healing. Malachi describes the divine fire of the “sun of justice” on the day of judgment as both destroying evil and healing with its “healing rays”. 

As Pitre points out, the divine fire of judgment both destroys by reordering the universe into right relationship with God and by so doing is also healing. This is similar to the healing process of a dislocated joint in a body. In order for the dislocated joint to be healed, it needs to be pulled with a little violence into its right place and in so doing the whole body then rejoices as the joint pops back into its right place.[3]

         Today, may we allow Jesus our divine healer to reorder our out of joint relationships. This at times will involve both a moment of rupture, when the disordered relationships are pulled out followed by the experience of unification and deep continuity of the body as our relationships are brought into proper alignment with the rest of the body, principally the head who is Jesus Christ.

May the Lord Jesus Bless You,

Fr PeterJohn Martin [Public domain], “The Last Judgment by John Martin (1854),” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Martin_-_The_Last_Judgement_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.


[1] Brant Pitre, “The Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com.

[2] Brant Pitre, “The Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com. Pitre cites Flavius Josephus on the temple describing all parts of the temple “made in way of imitation and representation of the universe (Antiquities 3.7.81)”.

[3] Brant Pitre, “The Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C),” catholicproductions.com.

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