Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 11/14/10: Be Not Afraid


33 Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 14, 2010 – Be Not Afraid
Malachi 3:19-20, Psalm 98:5-9, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12, Luke 21:5-19

Complete biblical texts

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could predict the future? Besides knowing what the weather will really be like we might find out just how long we have to live and, better yet, whether we’re going to heaven or hell. Now wouldn’t that change the way we do things now?

Today’s gospel is not about making predictions especially dire ones. Rather, it is more about focussing on the way things are here and now. Luke’s gospel was written some fifty years after Jesus rose from the dead and 10-15 years after the Temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed. If it was not a prediction of these events then what meanings are to be found in these texts?

The first scripture reading this morning helps us understand. Malachi (the name means “messenger”) may have been a Temple priest who took it upon himself to be a prophet. He criticized a corrupt Temple priesthood and anyone else who tested God. He said arrogant people and evildoers would not be saved. By naming the things that were wrong he hoped people would change their lives.

What then are we to make of the cosmic tragedies listed in the gospel? Luke understands Jesus to be a “spokesperson” for God [1] who tells things like they are. In this sense Jesus was pointing out that life in this world is imperfect with its cholera epidemic in Haiti, the mindless battles in the Mideast, the weak economy in our nation, the devastating floods in Pakistan and the Philippines.

These events, however, are not signs that the end of the world is near.  We will always have to deal with terrible calamities. We are challenged, instead, to find ways to do something about ending the evil we cause and helping others survive the natural catastrophes and illnesses we cannot control.

The psalm today is helpful in thinking about our responsibilities for one another. It is a hymn celebrating God’s rule over the universe. In that time of Israel’s history it was thought that people were passive witnesses to whatever God was doing in the world. Christian theology today tells us otherwise — that we are participants in God’s salvation. [2]

Our mantra in this community, for example, is all about daring to advance the kin-dom of God here on earth. It is not enough to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ. After all, we do not literally expect Christ to return on a cloud announcing the end of the world. What we are anticipating is a time and a place when and where justice will prevail and all of God’s people will find peace and harmony. It may be a long wait.

These scriptures today remind us that, in the meantime, God will not leave us alone on this journey. As we trek together sometimes we are faithful in doing God’s work. Sometimes, like the Thessalonians in the second reading, we are uncooperative or slow to respond. [3] In a mysterious way the holy Spirit, nevertheless, is helping us stand up straight and tall in the face of all adversity.

The end of another liturgical year will soon give way to a new Advent – the birth of a savior and the promise of the coming of God’s kin-dom. That’s the way it is in life. The dawn of something new comes after something old dies. Day follows night. Our task is to name, like Malachi did, what must end — those things that need to be changed in our lives and on earth. It’s a never ending task and there is no escaping it.

We can keep our focus on things as they really are. No amount of material goods, powerful weapons or government policies will cause lasting joy and security. We are pilgrims, all of us, pitching our tents in a time and a place, doing all we can do; joining with others who believe in God’s companionship, willing to work hard to bring about a little bit of comfort on earth. Do not be afraid.

1 Pilch, John. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 1997, 164-166

2 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary:The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press,1984) Revised Edition pp. 511-12 and 525-527

3 Some Thessalonians, influenced in part by  Gnostic teachings, believed Jesus Christ had already returned and so there was nothing more for them to do. Their knowledge would save them.


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

4 thoughts on “Homily – 11/14/10: Be Not Afraid

  1. thanks again for another good sermon . When we go on SAt night and then I can read your sun sermon I am twice blessed thanks ELLEN


  2. Richard,

    As always, a thoughtful homily. It was refreshing to read that this is not an ‘end of the world’ and ‘you – better – be – ready’ homily.

    You get to the heart when you remind us that God will not leave us alone. Perhaps expanding more on that immense love that is in us, around us and calling us would be helpful to many.

    I like that you keep reminding us of the holy daring to advance the kin-dom. I think next week is the Feast of Chris the King? I wonder how many homilists (reflect-ers?) will paint a picture of a kin-dom that is more relational and less about connoting power and authority….?


  3. Beautifully done! It is far to easy to frame these readings in gloom and doom alone, fear and of course, the need to earn our way in.

    Now of course these readings do deal with some gloom and doom, fear and the need to “work” – as in regard to the “work” of cooperating with grace.

    God’s grace is stupefying and I am ever reminded of the persistent press of it around me, waiting for me to respond to it. There’s the real work – creating the very kin-dom you speak of. Once you say yes you don’t just sit back. Of course, you sort of do. Oh that rich tension in between the poles.

    I love what Suzanne says above! Very wise.


  4. Richard…I really liked this homily. It resonated with one of my favorite passages from the Imitation of Christ…”when the grace departs from us we must not despair, but calmly remain, awaiting the will of God, and bear, for the glory of Jesus Christ, whatever shall befall us: because, after winter cometh summer, after night the day returneth, and after the storm cometh a great calm.”…


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