November 18, 2018 Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Welcome Father Peter Today’s Readings: Dan 12:1-3 | Heb 10:11-14, 18 | Mk 13:24-32

As the church brings its liturgical year to an end, it traditionally draws upon that portion of the Gospel that deals with the end time. In the Gospel of Mark, 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 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. 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 his 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 to perform the final act for him. 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 Old Testament. 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. He in effect, was saying that although the end of the world is being described in calamitous terms, his disciples are to respond with faith, with hope, with anticipation. The end of the world means good times, summer, for them. They are not signs that God has lost control of history but that he is bringing things to a triumphant end. It is indeed the victory of God and the twilight of all the lesser gods which men have created for themselves over the centuries.

For Mark it is the final end of time that will bring to resolution all the human problems and tensions that have been described throughout the Gospel. The signs of this final end will be so cosmic and unambiguous that the Christian community will know immediately that the time has arrived. Mark depicts the final end as a grand cosmic short circuiting. The cosmic signs will be visible, such as the failing of light from the sun and the falling of the stars from the sky. The entire fold of heavenly powers will be shaken. The Son of Man will be vindicated and God’s people wherever they are will be gathered once again. The focus here is the saving work of the son of man. There is no mention of resurrection and final judgment. 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. Thus we have an affirmation of the central place Jesus, as seen in the expectations of the Christians and present himself as a reflection of the divine role he is understood to exercise.

Mark does not directly answer the inquiry as to when precisely all this is going to take place. There is the assurance that the end times will come but Jesus clearly says that only the Father is aware of it. 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. Each generation of men and women expects Jesus to return to earth. He has made his promise. The first Christians awaited him with a firm hope as specified in the Acts of the Apostles. Many generations were disappointed because this promise of the return of the Lord has not yet been fulfilled. Yet the Lord comes to us. He comes daily in the Eucharist and will be with us at end times to unite all to himself.

Source: Shortened from https://msjnov.wordpress.com/2018/11/11/thirty-third-sunday-of-the-year-november-18-2018/ Image: The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo (1541)