Tough Hope as Ordinary Time Ends

Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings. More guides are available under “Don’t Miss This.

Nov. 14 is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).


The American Conference of Cantors has been invited to participate in a mission to the Vatican Nov. 14-18. Sixteen cantors from the Jewish organization will meet with Pope Benedict XVI, cardinals, Vatican officials and seminarians from the North American College. Cantor Mark Goldman, from Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation, Fla., said, “This will be a moment to cherish in my life, a night different from all other nights. I will be singing in the Vatican instead of shul.”

It’s the latest in a series of meetings of Pope Benedict XVI with the Jewish community.

These have included visits to the Cologne, Germany, synagogue and to Auschwitz. In Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Father praised Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner’s book A Rabbi Speaks With Jesus. The Pope also visited a New York synagogue during his visit to the United States.

Benedict XVI has exemplified a particular kind of religious dialogue that doesn’t focus only on points of commonality, but seeks to tell the whole truth. As he said in Washington, “Dear friends, in our attempt to discover points of commonality, perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. … [T]he higher goal of interreligious dialogue requires a clear exposition of our respective religious tenets.”

He has had to fight against controversies real and imagined in his outreach to the Jewish community, but has become a role model of humility and respect in the way he has approached the question.


Malachi 3:19-20; Psalms 98:5-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

Our Take

You’ve heard of “tough love.” This Sunday is about “tough hope.”

This is the year’s last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday is the feast of Christ the King, and the Sunday after that is the first week in Advent.

Ordinary Time ends with a bang. First comes Malachi’s prophecy: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble.”

Jesus’ teaching is also filled with dark words. He predicts that false prophets will lead people astray, that there will be natural disasters and wars and treachery.

Both dire warnings sound strange to us. Neither should.

Will evildoers truly be reduced to stubble? We can be certain that they certainly will be — and us along with them, if we join them. After all, we are used to seeing justice prevail on earth: Institutionalized slavery, the Nazis and the Soviet Bloc all seemed unstoppable in their day, but they came and went. Why should the evils of our day, like abortion, human trafficking and al Qaeda, be any different?

Christ describes just how dark it will get for Christians.

“You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death,” he says. “You will be hated by all because of my name.”

The good news is that following Christ will preserve and protect us in the most fundamental, eternal way. The bad news: False prophets will arise and lead many astray.

How does one distinguish the false prophets from the true ones? St. Paul, describing his conduct on the mission in Thessalonica, gives a test. True apostles work hard “in toil and drudgery, night and day” and use their lives more than their words to show us how we must behave.

So, follow Christ and those you see working tirelessly and living lives of holiness. Avoid those who live lives of easy comfort and speak about holiness while exempting themselves.

And wait. Wait in hope for Christ the King, then for Advent and Christmas to come — and wait for the blessings of God and the return of Christ to our world.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,

where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.