We're reading the book of Daniel at Mass this week. Interestingly, this book was written during the persecution we read about in Maccabees last week, but Daniel purports to relate events from a much earlier period, during the Babylonian captivity some 200 years back in Israel's history. Both the first reading and the Gospel offer vivid pictures of destruction and overthrow opening the way to a kingdom that is "not of this world."
The first reading leapfrogs from Babylon into the future, comforting the pious Jews who were suffering under Antiochus and his minions with a vision of a kingdom to come. Jesus in today's Gospel also speaks of the future, although in this passage we do not get the full promise of the kingdom to come.
The Creed assures us that Jesus will "come again in glory...and of his kingdom there shall be no end." I don't often focus on those lines of the Creed. Maybe because they refer to the future, so I don't have an experience or a historical "marker" to associate it with, so I literally don't know what I'm talking about. Or maybe because my attention is set in the wrong direction: backwards, instead of forward. That wasn't the case with today's saints. The Vietnamese martyrs are 117 canonized saints from a time of persecution that crossed three centuries. Yesterday was the feast of another martyr, the heroic Bl. Miguel Pro, and tomorrow will be the feastday of yet another, the popular ancient martyr Catherine of Alexandria. All of these witnesses held fast against the pressure and threats of the "rulers of this age" in their hope for the full life of the world to come.