A TALE OF TWO CITIES: A HOMILY ON THE 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
People always like to say there are two kinds of people, those who … and those who …. But one that I find interesting is that of Robert Benchley who said “There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who dont. Well, in the end, there would be two kinds of people.
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one of whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever: When we think of the Archangel Michael, we think quickly of how he chased Lucifer and other fallen angels out of heaven. Through him, God made a distinction between two kinds of angels, those who are for God and those who are against God. The devil therefore is a big agent in this distinction making. He constantly tries to make sure we are against God.
Yes, in the end, there would be two kinds of people, those whose names shall be found written in the book, and those whose names shall not be found written in the book. St. Augustine is one of those who think the world is divided into two kinds of people. In his book, ‘City of God’ he divides people into those in the earthly city and those in the heavenly city. He says that those in the earthly city are those who love themselves even to the contempt of God. Those in the heavenly city are those who love God even to the contempt of self. Those in the second city take refuge in God as we see in the psalm: O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup; you yourself who secure my lot. I keep the Lord before me always, with him at my right hand, I shall not be moved…
There is an eternal consequence of belonging to each of these cities. And so, my heart rejoices, my soul is glad; even my flesh shall rest in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to hell, nor let your holy one see corruption. You will show me the path of live, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand, bliss forever. This is the reward of those who love God to the contempt of self, those who set the will of God above theirs, those who have said to God ‘Let your will, not mine be done’. This involves a lot of sacrifice, sacrificing my own desires and doing only what God wants.
Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait untill his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin: There are two kinds of people; those who depend on themselves and those who depend on God. The reason why the old sacrifices by the levitical priests is said to be incapable of taking away sins is because it is a sacrifice provided by people. Remember when Abraham was asked by Isaac about the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham responded that God will provide. God did provide in the person of Jesus. Jesus is that lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world. This is important because only God can provide what will save us. We cannot provide the lamb for our own forgiveness. Whatever we do will be incapable of taking our sins away. That is why we are to depend completely on God, and forget about ourselves or whatever we think we can do to be saved. Only Jesus can save us.
Yes, there are two kinds of people; friends of God and enemies of God. Those who think they can work out their own salvation and those who believe that only God can provide the lamb that will take away their sins. Enemies of Jesus are those who love themselves, even to the contempt of God. It is easy to say we love Jesus, but the more we focus on ourselves, the less we focus on Jesus. The more we focus on Jesus, the less we focus on ourselves. Some people may not be at the level of real hatered for Jesus, but they are certainly getting there by turning their love on themselves. They come to a point where they are more interested in making God do their will than in trying to do the will of God. Then the final straw is, because God will not do their will, they become enemies of God.
Notice here that sanctification is used in the passive voice. At the end, there will be two kinds of people, those who want to work out their own sanctification, and those who will allow themselves to be sanctified; those who will try to provide the lamb for the sacrifice and those who know that only the lamb of God can take away sins. We have to allow ourselves to be perfected by Jesus, to be sanctified by Jesus, to be forgiven by Jesus, instead of trying to convice God that we are righteous.
As we approach the end of the year, we read more about death and the end of time.
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “In those days, after that great tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branches becomes tender and puts fourth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things take place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say you you, this generatin will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”: Yes, there are two kinds of people, the elect and the damned. But what does one have to do to become an elect? In order to understand this Gospel, we have to understand an ancient form of writing which is like making a sandwich. A story (A) is told before something (B) is said, after which another story (C) is told. This is to tell the reader that in order to understand B, they have to understand A and C. This gospel is part of Mark Chapter 13, which is about the end time. The end of Chapter 12 is the story of the poor widow who put in everything she had, and the beginning of Chapter 14 is about a sinful woman who was pouring a costly ointment on Jesus’ feet. In both cases, the names of the women are not mentioned. This is because each individual should become these women. In both cases, you see women who love God even to the contempt of themselves. The first woman put in everything she had as if she didnt care how she will survive after that. The second woman was ‘wasting’ a very costly oil on Jesus, so much that people complained that such oil can be sold and the money given to the poor. Of course, they were more worried about money than about Jesus, which is where many Christians have found themselves. But this woman valued Jesus more than the oil, no matter how much it costs. These two stories are deliberately put before and after the discourse on the end time to let us know that only those with this kind of worldview/attitude can be saved.
Yes, there are two kinds of people, those who hold on to this world as if it will not pass away and those who enjoy this world, knowing it will pass away; those who love themselves even to the contempt of God and those who love God even to the contempt of self as we see in the two women with whom St. Mark made a sandwich of this Gospel.
Oh when the saints go marching in… I want to be in that number….