Friday November 28, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Daniel 7:2-14) Gospel (St. Luke 21:29-33)
In the first reading, we hear from the prophet Daniel about these four beasts that come up out of the ocean and are given some authority and dominion to rule over the earth. Now what these four beasts are, of course, nobody really knows; but if we look carefully at it, it is pretty obvious that it is not a particular individual thing but rather it seems to be more like a system or something like Communism or some kind of corporation or whatever one might think along those lines. That becomes very evident when you look, for instance, at the last beast, that is, all the authority and dominion and power that it has but then it has ten horns which usually would signify ten kings. Then three are torn away while a fourth one comes up. It is arrogant and has eyes and a mouth that speaks and all these sorts of things. When we look at it from that perspective, we realize that this is some thing that is going to be in the world, whether or not this is some kind of philosophical system like Communism that is going to have dominion. Most people, interestingly, think that it is long gone and dead – it is anything but – but that is the way the media has presented it and most people have bought their lie.
So they have all of these things that are present. For instance, when we compare this with the Book of Revelation, which talks about the four beasts and about the little horn and the ten horns and all the different things, we also hear in the Book of Revelation how the one beast appeared to be dead and had a mortal wound and then came back to life. Is that something like Communism, which most people think has been dealt a mortal wound – which it has not – and suddenly is going to spring upon us? We do not know. It could be something along those lines but we do not know what it is. And have they been here already, have some of them been here? We do not know that either. As you look back over time and you see, for instance, the various things that people like Stalin and Hitler and Mao Tse Tung did, any of these sorts of people, we do not know if that is what this is talking about or if it is something else. All we know is that there are going to be four hideous systems or four hideous things, whatever they are, that either have been here in part or will be coming at some point that are going to have dominion, that are going to trample people, that are going to destroy people. When you just look at the one, it is given these tusks and it is told to devour much flesh. Is it the whole abortion movement? Is it the euthanasia movement? We do not know. Again, you can begin to look at these sorts of things and see how all of this can fit in.
Then we align that with the Gospel reading today. The Lord says, When you see all these things, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. In the Gospel reading that we would have had yesterday had we not had the Thanksgiving Day readings, it tells us, When you see all of these things, stand upright, hold your head high, and know that the kingdom of God is near, that your day of salvation is coming close. So when we look at some of these things it is pretty evident. Read the signs of the times or at least learn to interpret them, as we are told, and see for yourselves that something is near at hand. The problem is when we are working with God “near at hand”, “soon”, “close”, it is all relative. All we need to do is look back at one of the most famous of the passages and that is in Isaiah 7:14 where we are told that a virgin will be with child and give birth to a son and they will name him Emmanuel. It seems like it is going to be immediately. This is the sign given to Ahab: “Ask for a sign and it will be given to you.” Well, one would assume that it is going to be given right there or very soon, and it happened seven hundred years later. So in God’s time “soon” and “very near” have different meanings than they do for us because God has no time. The way we would interpret it and the way He interprets it may be two entirely different things.
But, at the same time, I think if we look around the world right now and see what is going on, we have to be able to acknowledge that things have grown to a certain pitch where it cannot go on too terribly much longer. And that is very good news because it means that very soon there is going to be a divine intervention of some sort. So we simply need, again, to continue to pray and continue to be faithful because, in the midst of all these hideous beasts that are going to be there, we are then told about the day that they are going to be judged: that thrones were set up and God the Father took His seat upon the throne and then there is One like a son of man who is given dominion and authority and His kingdom will have no end. We see what is to be, and indeed what is. Jesus has been given dominion and authority and His kingdom is without end. So no matter what happens, no matter how much power evil seems to have, you need to keep in mind that all of this is part of God’s Providence, that He is allowing that to test our faith, to see if we are going to be faithful to Him. Evil, remember, is always defined negatively: it is a lack of good. So no matter how much power it has, it is nothing and it has nothing. All power belongs to God. And when the day of judgment comes for these evil things, God is going to wipe them out and they will be gone forever. What will remain are those who are faithful and they will worship God, not only forever in heaven (which is what we are looking for) but in this world as well where all things will be renewed. There will be a Catholic world where everyone will be in union with the Will of God.
So as we look at it now, we make that choice. Are we going to be in union with the will of evil and give ourselves over to these evil things? Or are we going to do God’s Will even now? That is the choice we have to make because in this world Jesus Christ is King and His dominion even here is without end. And so that is our King and it is our choice to make. Whom will we serve? The four beasts that are given dominion or the One like a son of man whose kingdom will never end? Of course, we know the answer in theory – now all that remains is to put it into practice.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.