THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
(A biblical refection on the 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 18 NOVEMBER 2018)
Gospel Reading: Mark 13:24-32
First Reading: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalms: Psalm 16:5,8-11; Second Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14,18
The Scripture Text
“But 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 heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And 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 say to you, before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
“But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time with come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” (Mark 13:24-32 RSV)
Today’s Gospel is an example of apocalyptic writing, a special type of literature that uses symbolic language and deals with both a specific historical situation as well as the end of time. For instance, some biblical scholars believe the words in today’s Gospel describe what happened when the Romans captured Jerusalem in 70 A.D. but many people also think this reading refers to the end of the world.
Because enemies were usually persecuting the intended audience, the authors of apocalyptic writings used symbolic language to give hope without risking increased persecution should the writing fall into the wrong hands. For instance, if the author simply tried to encourage his people to persevere by saying the king will one day die and his oppressive tactics will end, there was the possibility the king may intercept his writing and persecute his subjects even more because of it. However, if the author writes that the lion (the king) with the ten horns (symbolizing power) will one day be slain, the king will not know what this means and will probably dismiss it as gibberish.
The author of the words in today’s Gospel reading addresses early Christians whom the Romans were persecuting and killing because of their faith in the risen Lord. Mark tells them that even though they have to endure many terrifying ordeals (the reference to the sun and the moon being darkened is symbolic apocalyptic language for trials and tribulations) they should remain faithful to Jesus who promises to save them. Mark quotes Jesus as saying that even if heaven and earth pass away, He will still fulfill His promise to be with them in their time of need.
We have to remember that authors of apocalyptic literature wrote to give hope, not to instil fear. The message of apocalyptic writings is that no matter how bad the situation becomes, God will intervene in history and will vindicate those who remain faithful to Him. Therefore, anyone who uses apocalyptic writings like the book of Revelation to scare us is either deliberately misusing Scripture or really does not understand it.
According to New Testament apocalyptic writings, those of us who believe in Jesus have nothing to fear because He is more powerful than anything else. All we need to do is put our faith and trust in Him and He’ll take care of the rest. Do you trust the Lord enough to do that or do you tend to rely on your own power and abilities?
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 222-223.)
Prayer: Jesus, I trust in You, I give You my burdens and ask You to help me bear them. Teach me to be always confident in Your presence. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Jakarta, 16 November 2018
A Christian Pilgrim