Sunday, November 15, 2015

He is Coming!: The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in heaven will be shaken.

And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky”  
—Mark 13:24-27

Speculation and anxiety about the end of time and of the world is neither new nor unusual. For centuries, seers and sages and mystical texts—like Nostradamus and the prophecies attributed to St. Malachy—have been making dire predictions about the future. Science, too, has contributed to public anxiety by citing a series of possible scenarios in which the world (at least as we know it) could come to an end through climate change, collision with another celestial body, and even because of the cooling of the sun.

While these grim statistics and “prophecies” can instill a sense of dread in any heart, the Church has consistently placed her focus elsewhere: as we look forward to the coming of Christ at the end of time, we should entrust the unknown and unknowable future to God’s care.

We can’t waste our energies on idle speculation about the future. After all, Jesus himself reminds us that “of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). And so, St. Mark’s vision of the Son of Man “coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26) can be understood as the climax of the Paschal Mystery: seated at God’s right hand, his work is complete, and he now waits to welcome all who will follow him through death to life (cf. Hebrews 10:12-14).

Jesus has conquered sin and death and this Sunday’s Readings—with their vision of the glorified, all-powerful Son of Man—should be a source of hope as we continue to confront the trials and challenges of life; our prayers this Sunday should also include those Christians who are facing the very harsh reality of persecution because of their faith in Jesus. 
 
Christ in Majesty by John Piper
in St. John's Hospital,  Lichfield, England
 
While the prospect of the “end of the world” might be a source of dread for some, we would do well to remember that as Christians we should always be oriented towards the future. While Jesus does foresee a passing away of the old, created world, he also announces the awakening of something new—just like the new growth on the fig tree after a long, harsh winter. This new creation is the reign of God and it is a reality of light, not darkness; life, not death; peace and love, not destruction and want. In the end, the message for us this Sunday is a simple reminder: when the world around us seems to be falling apart, Jesus is breaking in: “He is coming who is everywhere present and pervades all things; he is coming to achieve in you his work of universal salvation. He is coming who came to call to repentance not the righteous but sinners, coming to recall those who have strayed into sin. Do not be afraid, then: God is in the midst of you, and you shall not be shaken” (Saint Andrew of Crete).
 
A Prayer for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time +
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 Christ our Lord. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
 
 
 

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