Be watchful, faithful, and strong.

November 24, 1999 Daniel 5, 1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28 + Luke 21, 12-19

November 25, 1999 Daniel 6, 12-28 + Luke 21, 20-28

November 26, 1999 Daniel 7, 2-14 + Luke 21, 29-33

November 27, 1999 Daniel 7, 15-27 + Luke 21, 34-36

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In these final days of the liturgical year 1999, leading up to the first Sunday of Advent, the Church again reminds us of the rise and fall of empires. King Belshazzar of Chaldea gave a great feast, and use the liturgical vessels looted from the Temple in Jerusalem as his serving ware. During the festivities, a hand appears and writes three words on the wall. He sends for his astrologers, promises them great wealth, but they are unable to translate the message. So the king is reminded of Daniel who is able to interpret the dream. Mene, Tekel, Peres, three Aramaic words for measures of weight and money. Daniel tells Belshazzar that because he has been proud and not humble and offended the Lord, his kingdom will be taken from him and given to another. Mene -- God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; Tekel -- you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres -- your kingdom will be divided and given to others.

That very night, Belshazzar, king of Chaldea, was killed.

We then read of the tricks played that condemned Daniel to a night in the lion's den, from which he is saved by the Lord. Daniel then gives us another apocalyptic vision setting the Messianic kingdom against/across the world, symbolized by the four kingdoms of Babylon, Media, Persia, and the Greeks.

Jesus in Luke foretells the coming persecutions of Christians, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The last gospel for the church year, anticipating the gospel of the first Sunday of Advent, advises us to be watchful, faithful, and strong.

Fast forward to November 1999, and all of these words speak strongly to our situation. Somebody sent me some private email saying, "My motto these days is, 'if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.'" The system is quite expert at keeping people quiet and distracted. Our attention spans are short, if it doesn't fit into a 15 second sound byte in a 30 second news story, it doesn't make the evening news. We are fixated on the sensational and centered on instant gratification. Our economy is based on the glorification of the seven deadly sins and we think nothing of sending to heaven the cries of tens of millions of widows and orphans. We sow daily in furrows of injustice, and think nothing of the seven-fold harvest we risk. Be watchful and vigilant, strong and faithful, indeed, the Babylonians are at the gates, the Romans surround the city, and Antiochus has set up a pagan idol in the Temple.

But this isn't the end of the Story. There's more, but that must wait for the morrow.

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