Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 13, 2016 - the Destruction of the Temple

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Reading I: Malachi 3: 19-20a
Psalm: 98
Reading II: 2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19

In the first reading we hear of death and destruction, and it seems that God is angry and punishing people. However, when we see the face of God in Jesus, we see a loving and merciful God. How can we explain some of the violence that is attributed to God and seemingly encouraged by him? I used to question the use of some
of the Psalms which seem to be asking God’s vengeance on our enemies.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, writes: “God is non-violent. God does not prescribe violence. Violence should never be rationalized in God’s name.” That is clear in Christian revelation. To support this, Fr. Ron tells us to keep two things in mind: First, that when the Scripture speaks about God as if he is angry, etc., it is speaking “anthropomorphically.” That simply means that we are projecting our own human thoughts and feelings into God. When Scripture says that we will experience God’s wrath it doesn’t mean that God is angry and will punish us. There is a natural result of sin which serves to punish people. Sometimes, dealing with the results of sin can be devastating. Relationships can be destroyed, physical pain can result, and difficult and painful circumstances can be experienced.

Another caution when studying the Scriptures, is to remember that it can be deceiving to interpret some things written in the Bible literally. Words have meanings which change over time. For example, teenagers do a good job of confusing us when they say something is “bad” when they actually mean “good” or “cool” or even “great.”  However, we can usually interpret the spoken word correctly. The challenge is when we have a written word that was used long before we were born, or when it is in a language which we do not know.

Father Ron talks about the example of archetypical stories to teach lessons, but which were not intended to be taken literally. An archetypical story is a universal symbol or representation. One example might be “mother earth” because it nourishes, sustains, gives comfort like a mother. A journey can also represent life with its up’s and down’s. Many archetypical stories represent good vs. evil.  A scapegoat represents a person who is blamed for everything that goes wrong even when he/she is not responsible.

Fr. Ron cites God’s command to the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan when they enter the Promised Land. That is simply a metaphor (an implied comparison) to do away with all things which might tempt them to wander from the path of holiness.  This reminds me of the advice given at Weight Watchers meetings. A recommendation is to remove items which are trigger foods from your living situation. In that way, you will not be tempted so much.

What is to be concluded with all of this? Let us remember the human face of the merciful Jesus, the God-man. Fr. Ron quotes Walter Brueggermann as saying: “God is in recovery from all the violence that has been attributed to him and done in his name.” Let us hold in our hearts the words: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8).


  1. Dear Sr. Annette,
    I am very grateful that you went into detail about the interpretations of the Bible and how we may not correctly understand the actual meanings due to projecting our limited perspectives onto God, changes in language over time, or metaphorical writings.

    When I read this week’s Scriptures I felt anxious at how violent they sounded. Luke’s gospel was particularly upsetting since we are seeing so many of the frightening things that Jesus speaks of occurring in our world today. Father Rolheiser’s explanation regarding God’s command to the Israelites to kill the inhabitants of Canaan was amazing to me. I would so value having Old Testament readings interpreted into a more comprehensive message so I can understand its meaning for me today as I try to live a Christian life.

    You concluded your post with a reminder to your readers to remember the human face of the merciful Jesus. Today’s reading from my daily devotional, Jesus Calling, encourages us to focus our entire being on Jesus’ living Presence: “I am most assuredly with you, enveloping you in My love and Peace.”

    I find such comfort in reading these words written as being spoken by Our Lord. It is my hope that I will develop such an intimate relationship with Jesus that I will be able to persevere and remain faithful when trials and tribulations occur – that my faith will keep me rooted in Christ so my fears will not overwhelm me.

    Thank you for choosing to highlight God’s love in this week’s blog.

  2. The reminder that some things written in the Bible should not be interpreted literally is especially appropriate as we consider the liturgy for this Sunday. There are a few extremely frightening references which should be regarded thoughtfully and above all sensibly.

    The following advice is from "Catholic Doors Ministry":

    "In these final Sundays of our church year the liturgy invites us to look beyond our immediate worries, troubles, interests and largely selfish concerns. It confronts us with the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. People who never look beyond the immediate here-and-now may resent the idea of asking us to think on these things, but there is nothing morbid about it; for if we are exiles and wayfarers on this earth, we are drawing ever nearer to our ultimate home in heaven, a thought that need not fill us with sorrow, but with a longing to be with Christ in the life to come.

    'It is useless to speculate about the time of the second coming of Christ, even though many of the early Christians expected it in their own lifetimes. But the message of this Gospel is to be watchful, to let the thought of what is to come guide our present life, since the trials of this life are small compared with the glory to come. Nor should we be alarmed by the imagery of wars, earthquakes, famines, or stars falling from the heavens. These are Jewish apocalyptic terms employed by the early Church to denote their hope for some radical changes at the second coming of Christ.

    'If we love God we need never be alarmed, for perfect love casts out all fear. But until the day when the Lord calls us, we must try to be ready and prepared to meet him. This after all is what he taught us: We must watch and we must pray."

    "Come, Lord Jesus!"

    1. Dear Sr. Therese Mary,
      As always, your post brings incredible insight to the weekly Scripture readings. This week's reflection is a powerful reminder to me to be watchful and not to get distracted from the truths expressed in your message in the midst of busyness and current events that I perceive as fearful. Thank you for your research. I am humbled and filled with peace by my newfound understanding.