(Michelangelo - Sistine Chapel)
"He will send out the angels and gather his elect"
Mark 13: 24-32
Word for Sunday: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111818.cfm
For the early Christians, the book of Daniel, from where our first reading today is taken, was extremely important. It helped them to understand the person of Jesus and how he was indeed the fulfillment of the Daniel prophecies in the coming of the kingdom of God. Daniel is part of apocalyptic literature – which means literally, a “revelation” or “pulling back of the veil” which reveals something unknown before. God has revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus the Christ and made his love and mercy known.
We hear at this time of the Church year – assurance and hope about the future. Ultimately, God is in control and will triumph in the end. In fact, in Jesus and the good news of the Gospel, that triumph is already underway. History indicates that the world has seen the rise and the fall of many earthly kingdoms but the kingdom of God endures. That is certain if we take the Biblical prophecies as truth. As Daniel tell us: "But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever." (12: 3)
Science has provided another certainty: what concerns the inevitable end of the universe. It is something we rarely worry ourselves about yet science tells us that approximately five billion years from now the sun will expand and take with it this earth and all the planets. What began at the moment of creation as the “big bang” will become at the end the “big crunch.” Nothing of this world lasts forever, including us of course. Now at nearly the end of our liturgical year we hear, as in our Gospel, the words of Jesus: “. . . the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky,”(Mk 13: 24-25), so we can’t help but think in terms of what our scientists tell us is inevitable. Some faith traditions claim it may be according to nature’s changes – but scientists and our personal experience know that nature always changes.
But, we might ask “Who wants to live in constant fear?” Jesus does not desire that angst for us. Life is about living after all. Jesus came to bring joy and reassurance of God’s forgiveness and mercy as he invites us to relationship with himself, the Father and the Spirit in spite of what cards we may be dealt. So where do we Christians stand in the face of things that are finite? Daily, with hope and optimism.
Yet, it’s tough for us in these “politically correct, open tolerance, alternate lifestyle, and subjective moral days” to digest the truth of the scriptures. Yet, rather than imagine a kind of end times destruction, the words are written to give us hope not just in to the future but to offer us that hope in the here and the now. And as to those end times, we take heart in Jesus’ own words: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mk 13: 32).
In the end this week’s readings assure us that in the ultimate end of all things Christ will be recognized as Lord of all history. But the best part of this end times imagery is that Christ remains among us now. As a people of future hope and reassurance, we are also people of present day optimism. The truth revealed to us is that God has claimed creation as his own and in Christ nature itself responds in a new order to ultimate redemption. In his Church, humanly weak and in need of reform but divinely perfect and in the constant mission of the Church and the Gospel proclaimed we reveal this truth for the world for every generation.
So, as a Christian people we don’t lose heart. Our faith should be stronger and we, as Jesus reminds us, still have work to do: “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place . . .” (Mk 13: 31). So, the mission of the Church and as members ours as well, is to gather others to Christ, to not lose hope in his promise, to participate and to do more than just show up, to know and serve the Lord. It’s not just words or fantasy or fright. It is rock solid hope in Christ who has conquered death and whose words can be trusted as truth. He has won the final battle before it has even begun. As the words of the Third Eucharistic prayer say: “In your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself all your children scattered throughout the world.” That all may be gathered in to welcome the Lord.
As we enter into the mystery of the Eucharist, let’s take heart to know that who we receive, this food for our journey through life and the power of his Word to bring all to himself. Our Lord will come when he is sent by the Father so may he not find us unprepared and ready to welcome him now and in the future.
Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God,
the constant gladness of being devoted to you,
for it is full and lasting happiness
to serve with constancy
the author of all that is good.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
(Collect of Sunday)