Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 15, 2020
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which is used this Sunday to connect a series of readings about “fruitfulness” and its eternal endurance.
Our readings today intensify a tone evident in recent weeks – a theme I call “end of the line warnings”. Just two weeks out from Advent, and the end of the 2020 Liturgical Year, we have our annual confrontation with “The End Times”.
I have never enjoyed these readings. They actually scared me as a child, and they don’t make me too carefree even now. The only thing that makes them tolerable is that they herald the coming of Advent, a favorite time for hope-filled readings.
- But to get to those Advent scriptural delights, we have to face:
- sudden disaster like labor pains
- darkness like a thief in the night
- alert and sober sleeplessness
- and, if we’re not vigilant, a potential toss into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
In the midst of these terror-producing readings, Psalm 128 can be like a calming cup of camomile tea. It reminds us – serenely, yet directly – of enduring blessings and how we secure them.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in the Lord’s ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
Today’s readings are sprinkled with two usually contrasting words: fear and blessing. However, our prayer may lead us to realize that these actions can be complementary from a spiritual perspective.
When we live in awe, or holy fear, before God’s Presence and Power, our life is blessed with fruitful – just and merciful – relationships with all Creation, including an anticipated joy in our eternal home. As Christine Robinson transliterates Psalm 128:
You are blessed, who know God’s grace
and who follow the Way of Life.
Happiness and contentment are yours.
Your home is a place of growth and love.
Your city a better place for your life in it.
Your life of faithful work, prayerful reflection,and shared love
blesses those around you with life and peace.
…and you can look forward with joy to your continuing eternal life with God and God’s beloved family.
Poetry: To Heaven by Ben Johnson who is among the best-known writers and theorists of English Renaissance literature, second in reputation only to Shakespeare. A prolific dramatist and a man of letters highly learned in the classics, he profoundly influenced the Augustan age through his emphasis on the precepts of Horace, Aristotle, and other classical Greek and Latin thinkers.
Good and great God, can I not think of thee
But it must straight my melancholy be?
Is it interpreted in me disease
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?
Oh be thou witness, that the reins dost know
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show,
And judge me after; if I dare pretend
To ought but grace or aim at other end.
As thou art all, so be thou all to me,
First, midst, and last, converted one, and three;
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state
My judge, my witness, and my advocate.
Where have I been this while exil'd from thee?
And whither rap'd, now thou but stoop'st to me?
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere,
How can I doubt to find thee ever here?
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn,
Conceiv'd in sin, and unto labour borne,
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall,
And destin'd unto judgment, after all.
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground
Upon my flesh t' inflict another wound.
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath
Of discontent; or that these prayers be
For weariness of life, not love of thee.
Music: Benedictus – Karl Jenkins