33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Daniel 12:1-3
Although this book tells us virtually all that we know about the
Prophet Daniel (whose name means “God is my judge”), the
author of this book is unknown. The book is arranged in no historical
order and has come down to us with different parts written in different
languages – some in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, and some in Greek.
The portion in Greek [chapter 13 (Susanna), chapter 14 (Bel and the
Dragon), and chapter 3:24-90 (The Prayer of Azariah)] are not contained
in the Hebrew or, consequently, Protestant canon of scripture. There
are unusual changes in construction throughout, the first person
frequently alternating with the third. This leads scholars to suspect
that multiple authors (and/or editors) may be involved.
The Hebrew Bible locates Daniel in the historical section between Ezra
and Esther. The Septuagint (the Greek translation used by the apostles)
locates it in the section of prophetic writings as the fourth of the
major prophets, after Ezekiel; which is where it is located in Catholic
(and strangely, since they follow the Hebrew canon, Protestant) Bibles.
The book was written around 300 B.C. or later, while Daniel himself
lived some 225 to 300 years earlier.
Daniel had 4 apocalyptic visions which are described in chapters 7
through 12. Today’s reading comes from the ending of the 4th of
[In those days, I, Daniel, heard this word of the Lord:] 12:1 AAt that
time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your
Michael is Israel’s prince (Daniel 10:21). The idea was common in
Judaism that every nation had its guardian angel (see Deuteronomy 32:8
where “sons of God” refers to angels). Inasmuch as Michael
is Israel’s guardian angel, he is “one of the chief
princes,” or archangels.
It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until
that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found
written in the book.
The book of life (see Exodus 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28). These will be saved.
2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth
A euphemism for “are dead.”
Shall come back to life. This is the earliest enunciation of the belief in the resurrection of the dead.
some shall live forever,
Literally, “some unto life everlasting” the first occurrence of this term in the Bible.
others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. 3 But the wise
shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament,
The stars, heavenly bodies
And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.
2nd Reading - Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
This is our last week in the Book of Hebrews. Rather than just study
the verses leading up to and through the reading this week, let’s
study all of Chapter 10 which will take over where we left off last
10:1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them,
The Old Covenant foreshadows that which is to come through Christ and New Covenant.
it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year.
The annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) sacrifices were not able to
remove sin, they simply foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus.
2 Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to
be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have
had any consciousness of sins?
The very repetition of the sacrifices proves their impotence. If they
had taken away the barriers to approaching God directly, they would not
have needed to be repeated.
3 But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins,
The Greek word for “remembrance” is anamnesis. The only
other New Testament usage of this word is “Do this in remembrance
of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25). This
“remembrance” was not mere reminiscence, but an annual
rejection of the golden calf sins; just as the Passover meal was an
annual renewal of their covenant with God
4 for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and
goats take away sins. 5 For this reason, when he came into the world,
he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body
you prepared for me; 6 holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight
in. 7 Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I
come to do your will, O God.’”
Here the sacred author has quoted Psalm 40:6-7 in the Greek Septuagint
form; which is how we know that the apostles used the Greek
translation. The Hebrew form says “my ears you have pierced (or
opened)” while the Greek says “a body you have prepared for
me”. The meaning of the Psalm is that God prefers obedience to
sacrifice. This is not a repudiation of ritual, but a statement of its
inferiority relative to obedience. Jesus’ obedience was expressed
by His willing offering of His Body in death.
8 First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted
These may be meant to cover the four main types of offerings:
sacrifices (peace offerings), offerings (cereal offerings), burnt
offerings (holocausts), and sin offerings (includes guilt offerings).
These are offered according to the law.
According to the covenant with Moses. This statement prepares the hearer for the verse which follows.
9 Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your
will.” He takes away the first to establish the second.
The “first” and “second” are references to covenants.
10 By this “will,”
Recall from our discussion last week that the Greek word for
“will” is the same as that for “covenant” which
is a better translation.
we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus
Christ once for all. 11 Every priest stands daily at his ministry,
offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away
A reference to the Levitical priesthood rather than the high priest.
The emphasis here is not on the Day of Atonement ritual, but the daily
12 But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
The contrast of the standing priest and the seated Christ has been used
by some to argue that Jesus’ one sacrifice is offered once and is
over, as opposed to the Catholic view of eternally being offered. It
does not mean that the sacrifice is “over and done” but
instead uses the imagery of Psalm 110 and is addressing the dual role
(royal and priestly) which Jesus exercises. His being seated applies to
his kingly status which he exercises in addition to his status as
13 now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
See Psalm 110:1. The “waiting” is the time between Jesus’ enthronement and the parousia.
14 For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.
Jesus has given his followers access to His Father – they share
in His priestly consecration. Jesus’ priestly consecration of the
Holy of Holies involved His obedience through suffering. Through His
obedience He was brought to the full moral perfection of humanity. We
are all called to follow His example and live His life (see Hebrews
15 The holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after
saying: 16 “This is the covenant I will establish with them after
those days, says the Lord: ‘I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them upon their minds,’” 17 he also says:
“Their sins and their evildoing I will remember no more.”
The sacred author quotes from Jeremiah 31:33-34 again. Jeremiah
31:31-34 appears in Hebrews 8:8-12 where it is the longest Old
Testament quotation in the New Testament. Recall that when we studied
this passage last week we looked also at Ezekiel 36:26 and the
significance of writing on stone and on hearts; stone representing the
Old Covenant and flesh representing the New Covenant. He speaks of the
Holy Spirit in verse 15 because the Holy Spirit inspires the human
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.
This is the conclusion drawn from the last words of the prophecy just
quoted. God no longer remembers the golden calf sins, because the
people have been forgiven (and thus have had the sins forgotten). The
fulfillment of this has come about through Jesus’ sacrifice which
institutes the New Covenant.
19 Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus
Whenever we see the sacred writer use “therefore,” we
should look to see what it is there-for. A conclusion is being drawn
from the teaching just presented. The conclusion here is that the
sacrifice of Jesus has forever consecrated the altar and has resulted
in God forgiving and forgetting the sins of Adam and of the golden
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary 20 by the new and living way
Literally, “recently sacrificed and living way” indicating
Christ is the way, the way has been recently opened, has been
sacrificed, and is alive.
he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh,
Note the contrast between curtain and flesh (not body, but flesh). Both
are an obstacle to entrance. This is a reference to the Eucharist.
Recall in John 6:53-57 Jesus Himself emphasizes that you must
“eat his flesh” to enter the kingdom. If one does not
recognize that the Eucharist is Jesus’ body, they do not
participate in the family meal which makes them a party to the New
21 and since we have “a great priest over the house of
God,” 22 let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute
trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our
bodies washed in pure water.
A reference to baptism which also cleanses all sin and makes a new person. We must attempt to stay this pure.
23 Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
Our confession of faith “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3) that is made at baptism.
for he who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.
Completes the triad of theological virtues: faith (verse 22), hope
(verse 23), and love. Note that good works is added which is evidence
of living out these virtues. One is not compelled to do good works, but
is instead impelled by the Holy Spirit to do them.
25 We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another,
In community, God’s family celebrates the Eucharist. Possibly the
neglect of these gatherings was due to fear of persecution, but more
likely it was simply another manifestation of the slackening of
Christian fervor verging on apostasy against which this letter has been
written. The assembly is a situation peculiarly suitable for the
stimulation of love and mutual encouragement.
and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.
The day of judgment came for the Jews in A.D. 70 when the Temple was destroyed).
26 If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth,
Apostasy, as we will see in verse 29.
there no longer remains sacrifice for sins 27 but a fearful prospect of
judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries.
The consequences of this sin resemble those in Hebrews 6:4-8.
28 Anyone who rejects the law of Moses is put to
death without pity on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
The violation is evidently not just any sin, but specifically idolatry (see Deuteronomy 17:2-7).
29 Do you not think that a much worse punishment is
due the one who has contempt for the Son of God, considers unclean the
covenant-blood by which he was consecrated, and insults the spirit of
This refers to the upper room and the Eucharistic liturgy. Those who
purposely avoid professing their faith and going to Eucharist (verses
23-26). If they do this, Jesus’ sacrifice is in vain for them.
30 We know the one who said: “Vengeance is
mine; I will repay,” and again: “The Lord will judge his
Here he quotes Deuteronomy 32:35-36; the Song of Moses where he calls a curse down on
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God. 32 Remember the days past when, after you had been
Enlightenment is a reference to baptism. It wasn’t until after
they were baptized that the Eucharist was explained to catechumens.
you endured a great contest of suffering.
It is unknown what the nature of the persecution suffered after baptism
was for these people but those of the Jerusalem church involved the
death of some (Acts 8:1). Persecution under Nero was also brutal. The
specific identity of the addressees is unknown, but after baptism their
former Jewish friends probably shunned them.
33 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other
times you associated yourselves with those so treated. 34 You even
joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the
confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and
See Hebrews 11:16. This passage refers to the heavenly Jerusalem.
35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great
recompense. 36 You need endurance to do the will of God and receive
what he has promised. 37 “For, after just a brief moment, he who
is to come shall come; he shall not delay. 38 But my just one shall
live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.”
Quotes Habakkuk 2:3-4. Habakkuk has just complained there is no justice
and that there is continued oppression. (Read Habakkuk 2:1-4 for
context in which Hebrews uses this passage). A promise of salvation
contingent on faithfulness.
39 We are not among those who draw back and perish,
Those who return to the Old Covenant
but among those who have faith and will possess life.
Those of the New Covenant
Gospel - Mark 13:24-32
Today we also finish our study through the Gospel of Mark. The time is
just before Holy Thursday and the Last Supper. This reading is an
apocalyptic description and needs to be heard in conjunction with Mark
13:3-8 where Jesus is talking of the destruction of the temple (which
occurred in A.D. 70):
13:3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area,
Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us,
when will this happen, and what sign will there be when all these
things are about to come to an end?” 5 Jesus began to say to
them, “See that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name
saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many. 7 When you
hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must
happen, but it will not yet be the end. 8 Nation will rise against
nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from
place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of
the labor pains.
Jesus now describes, in Old Testament images, something that is coming
which requires Christians to prepare themselves in order to cope with
24 ABut in those days after that tribulation
A period of great tribulation not directly relatable to any specific time
“We must not inordinately fix upon the chronology of what is said
in Scripture, because frequently the Holy Spirit, having spoken of the
end of the last times, then returns again to address a previous time,
and fills up what had before been left unsaid. Nor must we look for a
specific chronology in apocalyptic visions, but rather follow the
meaning of those things which are prophesied” [Saint Victorinus
of Pettau (ca. A.D. 280), Commentary on the Apocalypse, 7].
the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and
the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens
will be shaken.
The cosmic portents preceding the coming of the Son of Man echo Old
Testament texts: Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Amos 8:9; Joel 2:10,31;
3:15; Isaiah 34:4; Haggai 2:6,21. Nowhere in the Old Testament do these
events precede the coming of the Son of Man. The list of portents is a
way of saying that all creation will signal His coming. The same motif
is also used in apocryphal books such as Enoch 80:4-7 and 2 Esdras 5:5.
26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory,
This description is taken from Daniel 7:13. This Son of Man is clearly
Jesus however, not an angelic figure in human form.
“This could be taken in two ways: one, that He will come in the
Church as in a cloud, as He continues to come now according to His
word: ‘Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the
right hand of the power of God and coming in the clouds of
heaven’ (Matthew 26:64). He comes with great power and majesty
because His greater power and majesty will appear in the saints to whom
He will give great power, so that they may not be overcome by such
persecution. The other way in which He will come will be in His body in
which He sits at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Romans 8:34;
Colossians 3:1), in which, also, He died and rose again and ascended
into heaven” [Saint Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 418), Letter to
Hesychius, No. 199, 41].
27 and then he will send out the angels
The messengers of God
and gather (his) elect
The elect (Deuteronomy 30:4; Isaiah 11:11, 16; 27:12)
from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
Everywhere in the world
28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
Not the fig tree He cursed (Mark 11:21), but a simple lesson in
horticulture. The fig tree’s natural process of growth in spring
and summer is compared with the sequence of events leading up to the
coming of the Son of Man. When you see these signs, know that the Son
of Man will come soon.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer
is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know
that he is near, at the gates. 30 Amen, I say to you, this generation
will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
A generation is 40 years. This was said in A.D. 30 and, forty years
later, in A.D. 70 the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The Temple was
a miniature of the Jewish concept of the construction of the world.
Their world was destroyed.
Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian, records the following when
describing the use of catapults in the siege of Jerusalem: “Now
the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent (75 pounds),
and were carried two furlongs (1/4 mile) and farther. The blow they
gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in
the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for
the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of
a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great
noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness.
Accordingly, the watchmen that sat upon the towers and gave them notice
when the engine (catapult) was let go, and the stone came from it, and
cried out in their own country language ‘THE SON IS
COMING;’ so that those that were in its way stood off.”
[Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 5.7.3(270-273)]. The
translator’s footnote says “What should be the meaning of
this signal or watchword, when the watchmen saw a stone coming from the
engine, ‘THE SON IS COMING,’ or what mistake there is in
the reading, I cannot tell. The manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, all
agree in this reading and I cannot approve of any groundless
conjectural alteration of the text.” Whitson, William, The Works
of Josephus, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1987, page 710.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows,
We must be vigilant and prepared at all times.
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
This has been used by some as an argument against the divinity of
Jesus. There is One God in three persons. The partition of
duties/knowledge among the three persons is one of the reasons why the
Trinity is called a mystery.
“It is sometimes turned into a reproach against the only begotten
God that He did not know the day and the hour. It is said that, though
God, born of God, He is not in the perfection of divine nature, since
He is subjected to the limitation of ignorance, namely, to an external
force stronger than Himself, triumphing, as it were, over His weakness.
The heretics in their frenzy would try to drive us to this blasphemous
interpretation: that He is thus captive to this external limitation,
which makes such a confession inevitable. The words are those of the
Lord Himself. What could be more unholy, we ask, than to corrupt His
express assertion by our attempt to explain it away? But, before we
investigate the meaning and occasion of these words, let us first
appeal to the judgment of common sense. It is credible, that He, who
stands to all things as the author (see Hebrews 12:2) of their present
and future, should not know all things? ... All that is derives from
God alone in its origin, and has in Him alone the efficient cause of
its present state and future development. Can anything be beyond the
reach of His nature, through which is effected, and in which is
contained, all that is and shall be? Jesus Christ knows the thoughts of
the mind, as it is now, stirred by present motives, and as it will be
tomorrow, aroused by the impulse of future desires. ... Whenever God
says that He does not know, He professes ignorance indeed, but is not
under the defect of ignorance. It is not because of the infirmity of
ignorance that He does not know, but because it is not yet the time to
speak, or in the divine plan to act. ... This knowledge is not,
therefore, a change from ignorance, but the coming of a fullness of
time. He waits still to know, but we cannot suppose that He does not
know. Therefore His not knowing what He knows, and His knowing what He
does not know, is nothing else than a divine economy in word and
deed” [Saint Hilary of Poiters (between A.D. 356-359), The
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org