18 November. 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Dan 12:1-13. The prophet Daniel has a vision about the end of time, including belief in a resurrection of the dead and in retribution after death.
Heb 10:11-14,18. Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins; unlike the sacrifices of the old law that had to be endlessly repeated.
Mk 13:24-32. Warnings about the second coming of Christ.
With Lamps Alight
Metaphors “Burning your boats” or “burning your bridges,” suggest a radical option with no turning back. Having your lamp alight is a much gentler image, but still a good one, for meeting the challenge of life. “What shall be the outcome?” is the question posed in both Old and New Testament. Where is this world headed? And more personally, what of my own destiny in the life to come? About that day or hour no one knows. And just as well, for it would be difficult knowledge to cope with. But his message is to be ready to meet him, whenever he comes. The Lord comes to us in many ways, both to gift us and challenge us. Welcoming him is what really makes us Christians, sharing the spirit of his first followers who said “Maranatha” – “Our Lord, come !” We are invited to live our lives within an awareness of eternity, seeing this life as preparation for and building towards an endless life with God.
The faster our cars become, it seems, the more we have to spend time waiting for the lights to change to green. The queue and the traffic-jam are signs of our times. The more we are in a hurry the more we feel held up. We travel at speed through the air, but wait interminably at airports. Business life is punctuated with frustrating times waiting for appointments. How do we wait? Sometimes with great impatience, sometimes with anxiety. But our waiting can also be coloured with joyful expectation. Expectation is often more pleasurable than realization. As Shakespeare said, “All things that are, are with more pleasure chased than enjoyed.”
How does a Christian wait for the coming of the Lord? Carefully, as those employed and carrying great responsibility. We will have to give an account of all our doings. The books must be in order. Actively, with our lamps burning, not asleep. We have to keep on working until the end. There is no time when we can say we have arrived, we have it all made. Joyfully, for if we are ready, then it is a joy to await the bridegroom and enter into the marriage feast. Hopefully, for we await him who in his one sacrifice lives to make intercession for our sins. In him we have confidence. He comes to reward us who have remained faithful and whose names are written in the book of life.
Our vision of the last things should not sink us in pessimistic fear, or despair at our sinfulness. If the uncertainty of the day gives rise to fear, it can be a salutary fear that prompts us to practical conversion. But converted or not, we should look forward in joyful hope to our Lord’s return, for he is rich in mercy for all who trust in him. How ready are we?
Our faith tells us that there will be a generation in history that will experience the second coming of Christ. There will be a time in history when a person may have but a moment to wonder: “Am I ready? Am I prepared? Second, if our generation is not the generation to experience the second coming, then we all must still face the day of our death. For some of us it will be unexpected and sudden, even perhaps at a young age. For others it will be fairly predictable and follow a natural course. Regardless there will be a time in our personal histories when we will ask ourselves the question: “Am I ready? Am I prepared? Third, we are faced with a multiple of choices to make each day which may seem singularly insignificant; however, they often add up to pointing us in particular directions. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. Are our many everyday decisions pointing us in the direction of making us ready? Are they helping us to get prepared?
With the business of life it is easy to forget about our faith in the second coming of Christ. With the business of life it is easy to dismiss our mortality and put off what should be our constant preparation for the death which we all must face. With the business of life it is easy to disregard the interconnectedness of our daily choices and not recognize the combined impact they may have on our ability to face God in right relationship. Choices matter.
How do we prepare ourselves? How do we get ready? How will we be sure that the Lord recognizes us? What are the right choices to make during our day? The end of chapter 25 reads: “Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Although we do not know the day or the hour of the second coming of Christ, Although we do not know the day or the hour of our own deaths, we have been told what staying awake entails. It seems that if we meet the response from the Lord: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you, it will be because of our foolishness and not because of a lack of mercy or justice on the part of the Lord.
First Reading: Book of Daniel 12:1-13
“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, keep the words secret and the book sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be running back and forth, and evil shall increase.”
Then I, Daniel, looked, and two others appeared, one standing on this bank of the stream and one on the other. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was upstream, “How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?”
The man clothed in linen, who was upstream, raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven. And I heard him swear by the one who lives forever that it would be for a time, two times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things would be accomplished.
I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred ninety days. Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-five days. But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.”
Second Reading: Epistle to the Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Gospel: Mark 13:24-32
“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell 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 about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”