33rd Week in Ordinary Time – November 13, 2022
When a horrible injustice occurs, such as when 22 people were brutally slain in Nova Scotia a couple years ago, you might hear someone say something like, “there’s a special place in hell for persons who do such evil things.” I confess that I have used that expression myself on occasion.
The readings from the prophet Malachi and from the Gospel of Luke for this 33rd Week give us encouragements to live hopefully and without fear or judgement. On those who live in reverence “the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings”, Malachi wrote. In other words, we are encouraged to do good and let God sort things out.
The idea that Malachi had of an afterlife system of rewards or punishments was a later development among the Israelites. The author of the Book of Genesis, for example, refers to the “world of the dead” (Gn 37:35). The common name for that world was Sheol.
In Sheol the dead went into an underworld of stillness and lifelessness, regardless of how they had lived. It was only a few centuries before Jesus that Jewish scholars began to have the idea that the dead must pass into an afterlife where the good are rewarded and evildoers are punished. Jesus was also schooled in that thought.
However, Jesus was insistent that we are not to make judgements about persons. “Do not judge, or you will be judged” (Mt 7:1). And in the passage from Luke’s Gospel today Jesus encourages us to not live in fear. Rather, even if you suffer because of your belief in me, he said, “not a hair of your head will perish.” In other words, put all your trust in Jesus, and you have nothing to fear.
The good news in the readings today offers us the opportunity to renew our dedication to live fearlessly as part of the “beloved community” as we follow and imitate Jesus and rely on the loving kindness and mercy of Gtchi Manido. In “End Times” or any time of hardship, live in hope.
Always be kind and compassionate. Live fearlessly.
Fr. Mark Hoelsken, S.J.