As we celebrate the Thirty Third Sunday of the liturgical year, we are reminded that the end of the year will soon be on us. Next week we will celebrate the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This will be our segue into the season of Advent and the immediate preparation for the Feast of the Lord’s Birth on Christmas. This week we are given a preview of the end of the year as Chapter 13, our Gospel reading this week, is the most difficult section of Mark’s Gospel using apocalyptic, symbolic language that usually points to some ensuing catastrophe. Mark uses this literary form to describe the temple’s destruction, the persecution of believers that will follow and the presence of what he calls a great tribulation. Mark’s Gospel was written about the year 70 AD, the very time the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Mark then presents Jesus’ final discourse following his prediction of the destruction of the temple. In the midst of all the tribulation he says that the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will be falling from the skies and the powers in heaven will be shaken. But then he offers some positive thoughts for then he says you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. The triumphal event should give the believers confidence and urge them on to greater vigilance.
And Jesus’ followers must learn to read the signs of the times, fig trees sprouting leaves point to the coming of summer, so the coming of the Son of Man points to ultimate victory and the start of a new age. And, while there is a sense of urgency as to when all this will come about, only God knows when this will all happen and the end of time has not yet been disclosed. The best thing is to be prepared, no matter when the final event takes place. With these thoughts we approach the final Sunday of the liturgical year and celebrate next week the Feast of Christ the King.
Fr John R. Mulvehill