The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
2018 – Cycle B
Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
It’s all about land!
Isn’t it always? Consider how most wars end up reapportioning the land either as war reparations, reclaiming ancient lands based often in a mythic history or expanding empires: Alsace – Lorraine, the partitioning three times of Poland!, the acquisitioning of Cuba, the Philippines and Hawaii, the European colonial “Scramble for Africa”. What is the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict or the struggle of the Kurds about?
Consider how often land /inheritance can divide family members or neighbors. “Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” [Luke 12:13] And what about that parable of two brothers? “… and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’” In essence saying, “Dad, can you kindly drop dead so I can move on with my life”.
It’s all about land!
The covenant God made with Abram was about fidelity and land: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates,…” [Genesis 15:18-19] Whether more promise than reality, these promised lands were divided among the Israelite tribes after the conquest of Canaan. The allotted portion of land to each tribe was handed down generation after generation. The land provided the people with an identity, sustenance and prosperity. Without land the people had no future.
Aren’t these aspects of land true today? Consider the stateless Rohingya people of Myanmar, the itinerant Romani, known as Gypsies, or the numerous Native North American tribes forced off their ancestral lands. A people without land has no identity, nothing to pass on, no future.
But today’s responsorial psalm – Psalm 16 – doesn’t speak of land as an inheritance, does it? Is it not rather a declaration of confidence and hope in a relationship?
You are my inheritance, O Lord,
it is you who are my portion and cup, it is you yourself who are my prize!
For all the talk of land inheritance among the tribes, the Book of Joshua records, “however, to the tribe of Levi, [the priests] Moses assigned no heritage since…. the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance”. [Joshua 13:14]
What does this say about the tribe of Levi?
Are they to have no identity? Who will sustain them? Are they to have no future?
Like the tribe of Levi, Jesus owned no land. He was an itinerant preacher, roaming the countryside like a gypsy. What was his identity? What was Jesus’ future? What sustained Jesus in his trials and difficult times? The scriptures today use poetic words and images such as: “a time surpassed in distress…”, “tribulation”, and images of the universe going dark, the lights being turned off. These images can refer to our personal lives as a well as world events.
Are questions of identity and the future not being asked by many of us today?
Consider the scattered people of Paradise, California?
…the refugees from Central America, Africa and the Middle East roaming the planet?
…the poor and people who live on the margins of life?
What is their future? What sustains them, what sustains us, to take another step forward rather than be drawn down into despair?
Psalm 16 declares there is something deeper than a connection with the land. It speaks of a relationship; a relationship that offers hope and a future: “…with God at my side I shall not be disturbed.” The psalm leaves open what that life’s disruption is. The death of a child. Not being able to make ends meet and provide for a family. Loneliness in one’s senior years. The unexpected illness or accident that medical insurance will not cover. The fear of not succeeding, obtaining employment, of failure. The struggle with an addiction. The death of a relationship, divorce, the betrayal of adultery. Are your concerns about the economy, the environment, or violence and terrorism? What is the distress in each of our lives? What growing darkness seems to be engulfing you?
The tribe of Levi stands alone as an example to us of what our real inheritance as a people of faith is. “Moses assigned no [land] heritage since…. the God of Israel, is their inheritance”.
Jesus who, identities himself as a son of God; who on the cross trusts that this God will not only sustain him but be his future. Psalm 31 that Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” speaks of a tomorrow. [Luke 23:46/ Psalm 31:6]
Thus the psalmist confidently declares: You will show me the path of life, fullness of joys in your presence…” God will show us our future because the God of Israel is our future; our inheritance.