Prophet Daniel used a highly distinctive language in today's readings. The eschaton, the end of days, is not meant to evoke fear, but to comfort the righteous and persecuted. That a deity would take a great personal interest in the faithful was a novel idea among believers of other faiths then. Knowing each person's name indicates that God intimately knows each person. We could surmise that those whom God exalted, who acted for justice with great wisdom, likely had a strong and active life lead by faith, if not by goodness.
Befitting to such an active life, would have been such glorious exclamations of praise and reverence for God, which the psalms proclaim with joyful abandon. No bashful or coy murmurations here. Faith, the key to understanding the rest of the readings, also leads us to contemplate a different way of life, counter cultural to our seeking gratification and meaning through our works and means alone. Specifically, the centrality of Jesus Christ in our life and salvation, the Son of God who is particular in his care and concern for each of us, who knows his sheep.
Paul's letter to the Hebrews goes beyond showing that the only efficacious priest is Jesus Christ as the high priest. Instead, these few verses highlight how our sins have been atoned for by the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, an atonement that is effective and God has accepted, as Christ now sits "forever at the right hand of God".
God's generosity — in the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, and in the reciprocal acceptance of his sacrifice by God the Father — is not about taking away the burden of expiating or paying for our sins, but rather the burden of guilt and shame. In the past, those burnt offerings were meant to appease and placate God and cast the believers in a better light in God's regard. Not anymore, for God's generosity, love and mercy, has been revealed and offered to all humanity. God forgives us if we confess, repent, and sin no more.
Does this take away our responsibility for our actions? No, we still have to repent. Rather, the freedom of God’s love encourages us to deal justly with our fellow creatures, human or otherwise, and with reparations if necessary.
What fills our days is what we are. However, there are some truths that are part of ourselves. These truths tells us not only of our origins, but also our best hope for salvation, for becoming more human. By our baptism, we are made the children of God. There is a relationship with other people, and not just our friends and family, or with God. We are also part of creation - part of the planet, rather than just residing on the planet.
If we have been reading the signs of the times, in what COP26 had highlighted how our environment has been drastically affected by climate changes, we might acknowledge that there is more afoot than we might be comfortable to deal with. That's a good first step. Educate yourself, and start where you are. Walk the talk with other like-minded persons. We are not called to be lone heroes — even Greta Thunberg had the support of her parents before anyone else. Concerns are many — start with the ones that you know of, that you can contribute to. Always find the Magis in your life.
We don't have to placate God for our sins, but we will have to deal with God's judgment if we do not make amends and live a just life. Which brings us to the Gospel, where Jesus speaks of his second coming in cataclysmic and stylized Jewish terms contemporary to his times. Only by faith can we have the sight to see beyond the descriptions to the coming of Jesus.
Are we moved by fear or feel the need for repentance? Are we able to proclaim with joy along with the psalmist? What is it that really gives us comfort and joy? Does this seem like a rebuke, harsh and justified? Where is Jesus Christ in your life?
MICHAEL PHUNG, SJ