Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
All the readings of today speak about the end of the world, the end of time, the final coming of Jesus to take all people and reunite the entire creation to him. As the church brings its liturgical year to an end, it traditionally presents the knowledge of the end times. This gives us the message that Jesus is the beginning and end of all things, all things exist in and through him. He is the Alpha and the Omega and he is the source of all things. Today’s gospel anticipates the dramatic events that will take place at the end times. It speaks of a time of suffering, the sun being darkened, the moon not giving its light, the stars falling from heaven, and the powers of Heaven being shaken. It will be a time when Heaven and earth will pass away forever. Today when we look round the world, we see so much of sufferings, hardships and pain. There is much corruption, terrorism and poverty. The world experiences the hardships of what is generally termed as the climate change. But here we have a message of hope as against the deep picture of doom presented by the readings. They offer a future hope in the second coming of Christ and also a present hope that in spite of the destruction and pain, Christ’s words will not pass away. We now visualize the Kingdom of God that offers love, compassion, kindness and mercy, the sign of new hope of the future. Even in the midst of suffering and hardship, the word of God continues to be alive and active. As we wait in hope for the fulfillment of the kingdom of God in Christ and look forward to a just, loving and peaceful world.
The first reading taken from the Prophet Daniel tells us of the protective power of God over all creation and over all people. It tells us how God took care of his people all through the years of persecution and oppression by Persia, Greece and Syria. The last empire received a special attention since it is the one the people were struggling with when the book was written. The passage tells us that at that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of the people, shall arise. This shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time the people shall be delivered, namely, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth, namely the dead, shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Michael will be the great prince and guardian of the people. He serves God by shielding the people in time of distress. God’s holy people will rise to everlasting life and the wise among them will shine like stars against the dark of the night.
The second reading tells us of Jesus the High Priest who offers the sacrifice once and for all in fulfillment of all the sacrifices. The task of every priest is to offer sacrifice, standing day after day at the service of God and offering again and again the same sacrifice. The Old Testament sacrifices offered for the expiation sin were ineffectual. They reminded people of their sins and prepared them for purification, for the one perfect eternal sacrifice of Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus offered one sacrifice for sin and this one sacrifice affected the forgiveness of all the sins. Henceforth there is no further need of any offering for sin. We need only to accept the gift of forgiveness. Christ has consecrated us to God his Father and has made us perfect in his sight.
Today’s Gospel speaking about the Son of Man “coming in clouds with great power and glory” echoes a passage in the Book of Daniel but here the Son of Man is even more victorious. Jesus speaks of the appearance of the Son of Man in glory and the final establishment of the Reign of God. In Mark’s Gospel, the whole of Chapter 13 deals with issues of the end of the world. This chapter is known as the apocalyptical discourse as it speaks in the apocalyptical language though it is not technically a discourse. The Son of Man here is understood as Jesus, the man on earth that the disciples knew and loved, but now appearing in all the unparalleled glory of God’s own majesty. His appearance is described in terms usually used in the Old Testament for the appearances of God himself. He sends out angels or messengers and gathers all God’s people together: acts of God in the language of the Old Testament. Here they are gathered to the Son of Man, who commands the angels as if they were his own. Thus we have an affirmation of the central place Jesus, the Son of Man, and he will be the one to take care of all and gather all people to him. He will send out the Angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. However the chapter narrates the devastating events that should not be taken as signs of the end of the world, such as the destruction of the Temple, persecutions and the desolating sacrilege, but a preparation for the coming of the Lord.
The first half of today’s Gospel leans heavily on traditional language and ideas from the OT. We need to emphasize that the description of events is not to be understood literally as a prophecy of what is actually going to happen. Rather we are to look at the inner meaning of these happenings. The cosmic disturbances about the sun, moon and stars are traditional ways of describing manifestations of God’s judgment of Israel. For Mark it is not the final end of time that will bring to resolution all the human problems and tensions that have been described in the Gospel. The signs of the final end will be so cosmic and unambiguous that the Christian community will know immediately that the time has arrived. The son of man will gather all God’s people wherever they are into his kingdom. The focus is on the saving work of the Son of Man and he gives hope to people who are in a situation of suffering and pain. While all these things are being forecast, there is no time frame given. We are not told of the time of the final coming of Jesus as King and Lord of all.
Mark does not directly answer the inquiry as to when precisely all this is going to take place. What he says is that when these things take place, the believers and the faithful will unmistakably know the signs that the time has come. Even so, the early Christians did expect that Jesus would come in their lifetime. This is reflected in the words, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” This was natural for to those who grew up in the Jewish tradition; the end of Jerusalem could only mean the end of the world. Jesus then gives a short parable or lesson from the fig tree. Fig trees were a prominent and well-known feature on the Mount of Olives, the place where Jesus was speaking. This tree only sprouts its leaves in late spring. When the buds appear they know that summer is near. The obviousness of the time for the coming of the Son of Man will be just as recognizable and certain. So Jesus, in effect, is telling them that although the end of the world is being described with such terrible signs, his disciples are to respond with faith, with hope, with anticipation. The end of the world means good times, summer, for them. It will come and will bring them joy and happiness like every summer. On the other hand we are told that the Son of man will arrive suddenly and without any warning. Either way it tells us that the signs are indeed clear and it is important that we are all ready for the same. All of us are called upon to be prepared.
No one, says Jesus, not even he himself knows when the end will come. It is not for us to worry about that. Worrying will not help. On other hand, we should not play with life and keep putting off the day of our conversion to God. The only way is to live today and every day in his love and service. It is the present which determines the future; so let’s just concentrate on the here and now. Then we already have entered the Lord’s Kingdom and when, early or late, he comes to call us to himself, it will just be a reunion of old friends. In fact, he is already here and has always been and always will be. It is not that he will come to us but that we will enter into a deeper relationship with him when we pass through death to a different kind of life. The message for us today is that Jesus has made a sacrifice for us that we may be saved and enter into his kingdom. It is God who has decided from the beginning of times to love us as we are created in his own image and likeness. Indeed the love that Jesus showed us goes beyond all the expectations, taking us into the depth of the love of the Father.
Once there was loving couple travelling in a bus in a mountainous area. They decided to get down at some place. After the couple got down at some place the bus moved on. As the bus moved on, a huge rock fell on the bus from the mountain and crushed the bus to crumbs. Everybody on board was killed. The couple upon seeing that, said, ‘We wish we were on that bus’ Why do u think they said that? If they had remained on the bus instead of deciding to get down, the resulting time delay could have been avoided and the rock would have fallen after the bus had passed ..!!! Think positive in life always and look for opportunities when you can help Others……
Fr Eugene Lobo SJ, Rome