10 November 2016

'By your endurance you will gain your souls.' Sunday Reflections, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Nave of the Archbasilica of St John Lateran [Wikipedia]
The Cathedral of Rome, the 'Mother of all Churches'

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said,  ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Earthquake destroys Basilica of St Benedict on 30 October 2016
Norcia (or Nursia) is the place where St Benedict was born c.480

This Sunday falls between two celebrations of church buildings in Rome, the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica on 9 November and the Optional Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul on 18 November. When the former falls on a Sunday its celebration takes precedence over the Sunday. The official name of the Lateran Basicilica is the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist and is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.

In the gospel Jesus speaks of the future destruction of the Temple where he had worshipped all his life, where he had been presented to the Father as an infant by Mary and Joseph, from which he threw the moneylenders because they were turning it into a market.

On 30 October the Basilica of St Benedict in his birthplace Norcia in Italy was destroyed in seconds by a powerful earthquake as if fulfilling the words of Jesus today, all will be thrown down.

Destroyed Basilica of St Benedict [Source:The Monks of Norcia]

In today's gospel Jesus warns us of wars and insurrections . . . great earthquakes . . . famine and plagues . . . You will be hated by all because of my name.

We are seeing all of these things in our time. They can lead us to lose hope - if we forget the closing words of Jesus in today's gospel: But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

On 4 October this year Hurricane Matthew caused great destruction in southwestern Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. But the Sunday Examiner, the weekly newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong carried the following report in its issue for 30 October.

Port-au-Prince. Survivors of Hurricane Matthew put on their Sunday finest as they picked their way through rubble and downed power lines to gather in ruined churches on October 9, just three days after the devastating storm ravaged their homes. 

Photographs posted on news websites show pews in the open air, with the rubble from the hurricane piled to one side, as a neatly clad congregation in suits and ties, smart slacks and dresses made a colourful scene in what had once been churches with roofs.

Mass celebrated in Qaraqosh, Iraq, after its recent liberation

Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe is the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul

In 2104 Christians were driven out of Mosul and nearby cities in Iraq by ISIS, also known as Daesh. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years Mass could not be celebrated in the area. But on Sunday 30 October Mass was celebrated again in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Qaraqosh, near Mosul.

A church building is where Christians gather to celebrate the Eucharist, the Holy Mass, where they meet and receive the Risen Lord. Down the centuries Christian communities have built churches that are beautiful in order to draw people into the beauty and life of the Blessed Trinity. And even if the building is destroyed by an earthquake as in Norcia, by a hurricane as in southwestern Haiti, or by persecution  as in Qaraqosh, Iraq, the Lord is still present to and among the Christian community, especially when believers come together on Sunday, as Jesus Christ has asked us to do, to celebrate his life, death and Resurrection, and our hope in eternal life, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Grave of Bishop Edward Galvin

St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Ireland

'But the spiritual edifice is, I think, intact.'

Since posting this week's Sunday Reflections I received the November 2016 issue of Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Ireland and Britain, which has the following story that is connected so much with this Sunday's gospel.

After being expelled from China, September 1952

In the January/February 2006 issue of Far East, Fr Dan Fitzgerald recalled the following of Bishop Edward Galvin (Co-founder of the Columbans with Fr John Blowick):

Bishop Galvin was my bishop in China for six years. Three of us Columban priests arrived in Hanyang in central Chine in July 1946. We were the first Irish priests to arrive there after the war had ended in 1945.

The man we met on that July day looked older and more worn than his 64 years would suggest. He didn't look like a bishop either. He was in an old crumpled cotton Chinese shirt and pants, with perspiration running down his face and chest. Only for the plain episcopal ring he had on his finger, he might have been the gate-man. There was something about him that suggested one who had lived through a lot, had suffered and had survived.

His exile for Christ ended in September 1952. As he arrived in Hong Kong he said, They have taken our churches, schools, hospital and mission compounds, but the spiritual edifice is, I think, intact. I blessed the compound and the cathedral, the whole diocese, its Sisters, priests and people. I put then under the protection of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, and of St Columban, the patron of the diocese and the cathedral. It was all I could do, but it was enough.

(1916 - 2016)

Antiphona ad Communionem   
Communion Antiphon  Mark 11:23-24

Amen dico vobis, quidquid orantes petitis, 
Amen, I say to you: whatever you ask in prayer,
credite quia accipientis, et fiet vobis, [dicit Dominus]. 
believe that you will receive, and it shall be given to you, [says the Lord]. 

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