As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: "As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever--forever and ever."
Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped what was left with its feet; and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and concerning the other horn, which came up and to make room for which three of them fell out--the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that seemed greater than the others.
As I looked, this horn made war with the holy ones and was prevailing over them, until the Ancient One came; then judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom.
This is what he said: "As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth that shall be different from all the other kingdoms; it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them. This one shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High, and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law; and they shall be given into his power for a time, two times, and half a time. Then the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and totally destroyed. The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them."
Sons of men! bless the Lord. (R./)
Israel! bless the Lord. (R./)
Ye priests, bless the Lord. (R./)
Servants of the Lord! bless the Lord. (R./)
Spirits and souls of the virtuous! bless the Lord. (R./)
Devout and humble-hearted men, bless the Lord. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
This last Mass of the church's year mingles practical realism with high hopes. Dense clouds can be viewed from opposite sides; from below they threaten thunder and lightning, but from above they radiate reflected sunlight and are symbols of peace. Faith assures us of eventually crossing from darkness to light. Meanwhile one must trust in God's plan for us and for the entire world. Whether in darkness or light, we are not alone but are joined to all God's people, in the communion of saints.
Daniel the prophet was terrified by visions in the night. Persecution raged and the beast who ravaged the holy ones was victorious until the Ancient One arrived. There is an intriguing phrase about the time when the beast reigned, "a year, two years, and a half-year." Three and a half years is a symbolic number for great distress which may last a long time but must also end. We cannot explain the symbolism of many numbers in this literature, but the Bible says we must persevere as long as the trial lasts, and that this time will certainly end. Only then will we properly understand God's ways, and for now many details remain wrapped in darkness.
Though his gospel was written after a time of severe trial (the destruction of the Holy City of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.) Luke's readers were enjoying a peaceful breathing-space, before the persecution broke out again under emperor Domitian. Therefore, he warns them to be on guard against indulgence, drunkenness and worldly cares, or the final day will come suddenly like a trap. Our faith thrives more during hardship than in prosperity. So Luke also advises, "Pray constantly," to be ready for Christ when he comes in glory.
The thirty-four weeks of ordinary time are ending. They do so with an message that Jesus will come suddenly, soon and gloriously. We have been gifted with the Scriptures of the church year. We will now be further graced with four weeks of Advent alertness. Since in our life's pilgrimage we are surrounded by the grace of God, we can reach the glorious destiny Jesus has won for us.
We ought not become so immersed in the cares of life that we fail to see beyond them. We need to step back and find a space where we can feels God's presence to us. "Be on guard" says Jesus. We are meant to watch, attentive to the Lord within and around us. Such attentiveness is at the heart of prayer. "Stay awake, praying at all times." But how can we pray at all times? Is prayer not something we do from time to time? Paul says something similar at the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians when he urges them to "pray without ceasing."
We are invited to r a contemplative stance towards life, a prayerful attentiveness to God in the midst of our busy lives. To help us do this, we could take a phrase from the Scriptures and let echo quietly in our hearts. One example might be, "Lord, make haste to help me," or, the simple Advent prayer, "Come Lord Jesus."