Homily for Tuesday of the 34th Week in OT, 23 November 2021, Luke 21,5-11
We have a funny situation in today’s first reading from the Book of Daniel. We are told that Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, had a dream. And he wanted his court advisers to interpret it for him. But the problem was, he could not even remember the dream. All he knew was that he was so disturbed by it, he just wouldn’t let go of it.
To his request, all his court advisers had a common answer—“Tell us first O King what the dream was, and then we will interpret it for you.” But the king said, “You are all a bunch of fakes. Anybody can offer an interpretation to a dream. If you are really wise, as you claim you are, you should be able to tell me, not just the meaning of my dream but the very content of my dream.
And so the king went to the extent of threatening to order the execution of all his court advisers, unless one of them succeeded in doing what he was asking for. It is in this ridiculous situation that our hero—the young Jesish slave named Daniel, who became a member of the king’s court assistants—comes into the scene. Only he is able to recount the dream for the king and interpret it.
I told you last Christ the King Sunday about the first reading on that day which was from chapter 7 of the same book that we read today. It was about Daniel’s dream of four monsters and the coming of fifth character called “one like the Son of Man.” Then the recounting of the dream is followed by an angel’s interpretation of it, upon the request of Daniel. Namely, that the four beasts represented four consecutive kingdoms that would rule the world, the son of man riding on a cloud represented the ultimate victory of God’s kingship through the remnants of the Israelite people whom he called “Saints of the Most High.”
The dream in Chapter 2, which is our reading today, is what I call another version of the same dream of the four kingdoms and the victory of God’s kingdom in the end. Except that the dreamer in chapter 2 is the king of Babylon and the interpreter is Daniel. (Remember, in chapter 7, the dreamer is Daniel, and the interpreter is an angel.)
I called this a funny passage because it makes me think of something naughty. If I were one of the advisers, I myself would probably have done what Daniel did. I would also have dared to reconstruct the king’s dream. How could the king question its truthfulness if he himself could not even recall what it was about anyway?
I think we have in Daniel a precursor of the professions that would later be called PSYCHOLOGY, PSYCHIATRY and the discipline we call PSYCHOANALYSIS. You see, because leaders are public figures and they do a lot of talking, they do not realize that they actually give themselves away as they articulate their thoughts and feelings. In Tagalog, we say, “Nahuhuli ang isda sa bibig.” (You catch a fish through its mouth.)
When a leader engages in an irrational monologue, when he blurts out his feelings in his unguarded moments, when he bullies everyone the way King Nebuchadnezzar is doing in our first reading, he is actually giving a good psychologist or psychiatrist an access or an insight into that leader’s state of mental health.
Pilate was like that before Jesus, as described in the Gospel that we heard last Christ the KIng Sunday. Remember how Jesus turned the tables on Pilate, the interrogator, by answering his questions with questions that unsettled the Roman procurator and made him lose his composure before Jesus? Herod was also like that before John and before Jesus. Remember how he later expressed his paranoia that Jesus might be a reincarnation of John the Baptist whom he executed? And remember how Jesus reacted when he was warned that Herod wanted him dead? He did not feel intimidated at all. He saw in Herod a fox that was actually betraying his fear through his loud barking.
Jesus seemed to have a good insight into the insecure egos of people in authority. How they tried to project authority through the clothes that they wore (like the Pharisees did), or through the massiveness of the physical environment in which they operated like the temple priests did. And so his simple answer to his disciples who were awed by the impressive looks of the stones in the temple and its offerings was—NO BIG DEAL, they too will be reduced to rubble.
Jesus advised his disciples never to allow themselves to be deceived by people who pose as anointed Son of God, or as the much-awaited savior or the ideal leader that the country needs. He does not even feel worried even if these people actually succeed and bring about a national catastrophe or an economic crisis, or a civil war, or a foreign occupation. He seems to agree with a saying which you have heard me quote many times from Marilou Diaz Abaya, “I believe in happy endings. If things don’t turn out happily, then it’s not yet the end.” It means we just have to continue retelling our history until it reaches its proper happy ending.