First Reading Commentary
This Sunday is the next to last Sunday of the liturgical year as the following Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King closes out the Sundays of Ordinary Time. Since we're arriving near the end of the liturgical year, the Readings focus on the end times or last days before the Second Coming of Christ.
In this Reading Daniel begins by telling us he heard the “word of the Lord”. This intimates that Daniel is at prayer, most likely in solitude, and in silence, waiting to hear the gentle whispers, waiting to feel a movement of the heart.
The name of the archangel Michael appears whose name means "who is like God." In the last days, Michael will be the defender of the Church who will guard her from evil; and those whose names are written in the Book of Life, that is, those who will live in eternal peace, shall escape the distress and will shine brightly like the stars forever.
Frequently in Sacred Scripture the stars are synonymously linked to the souls that are saved. In the Old Testament Joseph had a dream that eleven stars were worshipping him (cf. Genesis 37:9); thus stars are worshippers. God created the stars for the service of all nations under heaven (cf. Deuteronomy 4:19); hence the stars are created by God to serve. In the Book of Judges (cf. 5:20) the stars remained in their order and courses and fought against Sisera; therefore the stars are fighters for justice and morality. The Book of Sirach (cf. 43:9) proclaims the stars as the beauty of heaven. What a magnificent description of the saints! The stars are also exalted (ibid. cf. 44:21). Finally, God knows the number of the stars and calls each by their name (cf. Psalm 146 :4). There are other examples where the stars seem to represent what we all desire to be: those who live forever, shining brightly like the splendor of the firmament.
Second Reading Commentary
The first verse refers to the priestly ministry of the Old Covenant whereby their sacrifices were offered frequently and yet those sacrifices were unable to absolve sins.
In the New and Everlasting Covenant Jesus was both Priest and Victim and He offered Himself for our sins and His sacrifice need not be repeated over and over because His sacrifice is sufficient and eternal.
Mass offers a glimpse into eternity, the One and Only sufficient Sacrifice offered for the people of God past, present and future so that sins may be forgiven. Our Lord's wait until His enemies are made His footstool is prophesied in the Old Testament: "Sit at My right Hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool" (Psalm 109 :1).
More than likely the somewhat cataclysmic opening verses of this Gospel are better interpreted as a comparison instead of a literal meaning. That is to say, when Christ returns, He, the True Light of the world, will shine so brilliantly that the brightness of the sun and moon cannot compare in illumination. There is nothing more powerful than Him, therefore, upon His return, anything that is powerful will seem weak in comparison.
Indeed that day will be like none other. The Venerable Bede refers to it as the day when angelic powers shall tremble and the very pillars of heaven shall be moved.
Jesus tells us about the signs that will give us a clue that He is near; but explains further that no one knows the day or hour of His return. Some Christian faiths are obsessed about this day. As Catholic Christians, we know that Christ will come again; and as long as we are living our faith, it is not something to be afraid of. Saint Augustine said: "The man who is free from anxieties waits for the coming of his Lord without fear. What sort of love of Christ is it to be afraid of His coming?" In our lives we try to prepare for just about everything we know is going to happen.
If we're traveling, we pack a suitcase. If we're expecting the birth of a child, we buy diapers, baby clothes and all the necessities to care for the baby. We buy gifts for Christmas, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. We educationally prepare ourselves to receive the Sacraments for the first time. Preparation is a way of life and preparation is the key to this Gospel. We know not the day or hour that Jesus will return but we do know that He indeed will return.
Saint Gregory assures us that it is a very great mercy of God for us to not know when this day will come so that we may always be prepared for it. Saint Bonaventure adds that God purposely chose to leave us in this uncertainty to prevent our attachment to temporal things.
Looking for the signs to know when He is near is not really necessary because as Spirit-filled Christians, we know that He is always near. We need not lose any sleep worrying about when that day will come because if we are prayerful and faithful servants of the Lord, then our lives are icons of holy preparation.