Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B
Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32
TODAY IS THE SECOND LAST SUNDAY of the Church year. Next Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.
On this Sunday the readings traditionally speak about the end of the world, the end of time, the final coming of Jesus to take all peoples and all creation to Himself. For Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega: the source and the end of all things.
In the passage immediately before today's Gospel, Jesus spoke about the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. It was a catastrophic experience for the Jews: even worse than the destruction of Rome and St Peter's would be for us. Because, for the Jews, Jerusalem and its Temple was the very dwelling place of God. It was not the first time the Temple had been desecrated and the Jews driven out into exile but this destruction has lasted 2,000 years. There is a Muslim mosque now on the site and that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
One of the essential parts of the good news of the gospel is the final and complete coming of the kingdom of God at the end of the world. Therefore, one of the essential characteristics of being a Christian is to positively desire the end of the world, and to look forward to it with great joy and hope and eager expectation. This is what we are actually expressing when we say in the Our Father, “Thy kingdom come” - that is, let this world end and let the kingdom of God come. And yet, the very thought of the end of the world fills so many with fear and anxiety rather than with joy and hope. One major reason for this is certainly that we have too easily understood the scriptural images and pictures about the end of the world in a completely literal sense, that is as if they were describing what will actually happen then. We have understood these images and pictures in a literal sense rather than in a symbolic sense, that is, as poetic, imaginative, dramatic attempts to express that God’s kingdom of justice and peace will completely prevail in the end, will do away with a world of injustice and sin, will destroy all the evil in the world, so that there will be a new heaven and new earth. In other words, Christ’s justice and power and glory and victory will burst forward and cover the whole world. It will be as extraordinary and startling and stupendous as would be a darkened moon and sun and fallen stars and shaken heavens over the whole earth. We might say that if the Scriptures had been written in our own time the writers would have used the contemporary images and pictures of a magnificent cosmic fireworks display to describe the wondrous grandeur of it all. That is, the world will not be destroyed or annihilated, because God created it and it is good; but rather it will be totally transfigured and transformed into a completely new creation, the very visible kingdom of God on earth.
So, the important thing is not the dramatic images and pictures themselves, but the message or meaning that they convey. If we concentrate on the dramatic descriptions as literal descriptions, then we can only fear and be afraid - in the face of such horrible things as universal darkness and fallen stars, shaken heavens and the fiery destruction of the earth. But if we look through the dramatic descriptions to the meaning, namely the mighty, all conquering coming of God’s kingdom of justice and peace, then we can look forward to that day with great joy and true peace, waiting for and earnestly desiring the final and complete coming of the kingdom of God at the end of the world. This is why we pray in every Eucharistic celebration: “Lord, in your mercy protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”