|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dramatic But Inspirational
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 15, 2015
If we read the first few words of a note and it read “Dear Brendan” we would know it will be a letter. If the words were, “Once upon a time,” we would know it is a story or tale. If it started with, “Did you hear the one about,” it is a joke. This is called form criticism and it is part of biblical criticism where we determine the “form” of the text, or genre, and understand that it has an intent by the style of writing. It is a very helpful way to understand the bible.
We often think of the Bible as a book but we are better to think of the Bible as a “library of books.” There are different genre or forms of writing in the bible and there are different intentions by the different authors. There are history books, storybooks, gospels, wisdom books, poems, etc. They are all different ways in which the Bible is written. So in this library of books, it is important to understand the genre to comprehend what is said. For example, we do not read a history book the same way we would read a novel; or we wouldn’t read a novel the same way we would a poem.
In today’s first reading and the gospel, we hear a genre called “apocalyptic literature.” Apocalypse is a particular type of genre which is very unfamiliar today. The whole book of Daniel is in fact apocalyptic literature.
Let’s understand the context. First the language of apocalyptic text is very colorful and drastic. It is intended to be cataclysmic to gather our attention. “Listen up! Disaster is coming!” Once the author has our attention, they tell stories of heroic nature, in such a way as to inspire us to work harder at being a disciple of God.
A modern day example might be American Football. We are on our own five-yard line and 14 points behind. What does the coach say in the huddle? “Look, we’ve been here before guys, we can get out of this again; I want you to do this and that and let’s go; all right!” He inspires them to go out and try harder with a specific play.
If we were trying to inspire others, how would we do so? I suspect that a letter and even stories don’t have the same effect as before. Today people want to be led by example! The best way in which can inspire others is by our witnessing how to be. It cannot be just an ordinary example. It must be an inspirational example.
It cannot just be that we are willing to forgive every now and then but we are radical in our forgiveness. It cannot be that we are willing to be kind to others but be kind to those who are personally hurtful to us. It must be so noticeable that people pause and say, “Wow! What or where is their source of strength?”
We are called to be extraordinary and inspirational in our discipleship. We can inspire others by our ordinary actions done with extraordinary love.