November 18, 2018
Sunday, November 18
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 13: 24 – 32
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 the heavens 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.
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.
“But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
We are coming to the end of the liturgical year. It will end on November 25th, the Feast of Christ the King. Whenever things are drawing to a close we look at the things that need to be tended to and the things that need to end. It is a time to step back, stand still, rethink and re-prioritize. It is a time for “new resolutions.” Keeping that ending in mind, this weekend and next weekend the readings remind us that the world is passing away; it must pass away. It is also a time, at least in our part of the world, when darkness has overtaken the light – despite our effort of “daylight savings time.”
The readings for the next two weekends are examples of apocalyptic literary genre. It is very evident in the reading from Daniel and from the Gospel according to Mark. The word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek language and means “to lift the veil.” A friend of mine put it this way: “Apocalyptic literature suggests what we think we see as true and as reality, in fact, may be obscured by veils. We think we see – but we don’t. We think we know the truth and the way things are – but we don’t. We need vision; we need the veil over our own eyes lifted so we can clearly perceive God’s presence and God’s future coming into our world.”
These readings convey a sense of the “end times.” In the past few months, after hurricanes, tsunamis, uncontrolled fires, volcanoes erupting, mass shootings, etc., I have heard people say, “these are all signs that the end is near.” It is a time when groups we sometimes refer to as Doomsayers come forward to proclaim that the end of the world is imminent.
Apocalyptic writing was never meant to be taken literally. It does not contain secret codes that only a few people know, nor is it meant to predict the future. It is meant to convey hope for people. If we look back over our lives, we will see times when we thought our world was coming to an end. It could have been the death of a loved one, loss of a job, diagnosis of a very serious illness. All kinds of situations when it seemed as if our life was nothing but chaos and it seemed as if God has abandoned us or forgotten us. Most of us, if not all, have experienced dark times in our life and may have wondered if there would ever be any light again. The times when it seems as if everything we trusted in was falling apart. Those times feel very much like the “end times” for us. Times when we wondered if God would live up to God’s promise to be with us always. Or if trusting in God is actually possible? It is so hard to live through the dark times of life; the times when we can see no signs of God’s presence. It is hard to hold onto hope.
Some may feel that way as you read this … maybe things are falling apart in your personal life; some feel that the political situation and climate in our country or in our church seems dismal and in total chaos, feel that that their lives have no signs of light and are surrounded only by darkness. Some may feel that they have hit rock bottom and there is no hope.
The writers using apocalyptic writing style are saying – WAIT! WAIT! God is in charge and goodness and life will win. Hope is always possible. Trusting in God is possible. Believing that God is always faithful is real. God is always in charge. Gradually, we will begin to feel the glimmer of hope begin to burn within us. It might take a lot of fanning for it to get going and we may need others to help us, but hope will prevail. We will begin to see new life, we will begin to move out of the darkness of chaos into the light.
If you have time, go to YouTube and put in Dare Not Fear to Hope – a video reflection. Just sit quietly and listen to the words. One of my favorite verses goes like this: “Do not fear to hope, for though the night be long, the race shall not be to the swift; the fight not to the strong. Look to God when victory seems out of justice’s sight. Look to God whose mighty hand brought forth the day from the chaos of the night.”
Apocalyptic writing is not meant to scare the begeebers out of us (even though some preachers use it that way). It is to give us reason to hope. It “lifts the veil” so that we can see for certain that God is in charge. “In the end everything will be alright. If it is not alright, then it is not the end.” John Lennon
Today we gather, as a faith community and we celebrate God’s constant presence among us – in each other, in the Word and in the Gift of God’s Body and Blood. We gather to be given the food we need to go forth and believe that whatever endings we face, the Spirit will be with us. We gather to lean on each other, to be signs of hope to each other. Don’t worry about the “end of the world” that is God’s prerogative. The world is always coming to an end. We only have today. God is always here and at the same time always coming. Today is the only day we have to “dare to hope.” Today is the only day we have to be faithful.
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP