33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time B
November 14, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: The first and third readings of Today’s Mass use language which is described as “apocalyptic”. We are only hearing a few verses of chapter 13, a chapter that must be read together. We are coming to the End of the Church year. In this chapter Jesus speaks of the End of the Temple and of the End of Times.
In this Chapter 13 (kind of a) sermon Jesus: 1) speaks in veiled terms of trials and difficulties the disciples (the community) will endure. In all probability Mark’s community was already experiencing these realities. 2) (Jesus) proclaims a vision of the future that belongs to the Lord of Glory, “the Son of Man will indeed come” vs. 26,7; 3) Jesus urges a call to vigilance, alertness.
Jesus first predicts the destruction of the Temple. This destruction which took place in 70 A.D. was in a certain manner, the “end” of the Jewish world. It therefore was not difficult to pass from the end of “a” world to the end of “the”world. This is similar to what happens to us at times. When our hurting is very powerful, it seems like everything is falling apart. Things seem darker. We get disoriented. We may even wish for the end of everything.
The disciples had questioned Jesus, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end?” Their question appears to be asking directly about the destruction of the temple. In Matthew the second part of the question is phrased quite differently: “¼and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age.”
By the end of Mark’s chapter 13 Jesus tells us: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” vs. 32,33. Mark is now clearly talking about the end of the age. And when that will happen, no one knows, only the Father. But Jesus advice applies to us as well, constant vigilance.
The second part of the disciples question is: “what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end?” Jesus answer seems to include more than the destruction of the temple. He responds with images which come from early prophetic tradition (Isaiah) and the apocalyptic tradition as found especially in the book of Daniel. The central message is very precise. That which will come to pass at the end is simply the definite triumph of the Son of man and all those who have remained faithful. It is a message of life and hope. There will be an end. This end will supply the definitive coming of the kingdom of God. The good and the bad therefore are not equally powerful. The last word of history is the triumph of the Son of Man.
Jesus message about “the end of the world” is a double message: it is an announcement of our finiteness (I am limited and my life is journeying toward death) and it is also an announcement of hope (good will triumph over evil, God will triumph over those who oppose his emphasis on life). Am I in agreement with this message? Do I integrate into my life this dimension of finiteness, of my relentless journey toward death while living this life? Am I living my life while clinging to the Cause which will finally triumph, i.e. Life? Pope Francis has said: “This is not an era of change, this is a change of era.” This gives a sense of urgency to recall our finiteness (limitations) and hope (good will triumph over evil.)
My friend Fr. Sebastian Muccilli sent me this prayer/meditation which he prayed daily as he aged. It comes from The Divine Milieu by Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
“Now that I have found the joy of utilizing all forms of growth to make you, or to let you grow in me, grant that I may willingly consent to this last phase of communion in the course of which I shall possess you by diminishing in you…
After having perceived you as he who is ‘a greater myself’, grant, when my hour comes, that I my recognize you under the species of each alien or hostile force that seems bent upon destroying or uprooting me. When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind); when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and above all at that last moment when I feel I m losing half of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God grant that I may understand that it is you (provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibers of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.”
GOD FATHER AND MOTHER OF THE COSMOS, OF THE EARTH, OF HUMANITY: YOU ARE THE MYSTERIOUS ORIGIN OF THE STARS, AND THE CERTAIN END OF THE UNIVERSE, GIVE US A HEART SENSITIVE TO UNDERSTAND HOW LITTLE OUR LIFE IS AND A HEART THAT WILL BE ANIMATED TO BE PUT AT THE SERVICE OF LIFE WHICH YOU ARE AND TO WHICH YOU CALL US. WE ASK THIS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.