Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

B - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 16, 2003
Mark 13:24-32

The End of the World!... Again?

     Some years ago, when I was teaching, I gave the students an assignment to be handed in on the following Tuesday. They all hollered "We won't do it!" "Why not?" I asked. "It would be waste of time," they said, "the world will end on Monday." For the nth time someone had predicted the end of the world and there were people gullible enough to believe them! I warned the students that they would be in trouble if they appeared in class without their assignments on the following Tuesday - and nobody did!

      During the next few years, as we move closer to the year 2,000 we can expect to hear more predictions of darkness, desolation and the end of the world. From one point of view it is to be expected that such aberrations should happen. It is, however, sad that so many people will get excited and become agitated by news of visions or threats of destruction and yet they will not follow the core message of Jesus.

      The matter of the end for each of us and the end of the world itself is one that is often touched on in the Bible. In our Christian understanding the "end of time" has been anticipated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus our salvation has already been achieved but we are not yet fully enjoying it. (I heard one professor explain the idea of being saved 'already' but 'not yet' by describing how he had got the smell of dried fish coming from the kitchen before breakfast. He knew already that it was there while he was not yet enjoying it. So, too, with the reign of God!)

      Jesus talked about the coming reign of God. It is clear in the Gospel today that St. Mark expected a catastrophic kind of ending within the lifetime of his audience. It can be seen, however, not as trying to strike fear into people but rather to inspire them with hope. "Take the fig tree as a parable; as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things: know that he is near, at the very gates… heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away."

      The message of Jesus is one of hope to be found in the world as it is. It is a message that tells us that God is journeying with us in the trials and difficulties of life and that his word is ever present to shine the light of hope on our paths. This word is challenging and disconcerting; "What good is it to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?"
      "Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you."
      "The greatest amongst you is the one who serves."
      "There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents."
      "Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither will I condemn you."
      "Seek first the kingdom of God and all the things that you fret about will be given to you."

      These words are challenging because they turn our usual values upside-down. But they also inspire us, guide us and give us hope and comfort. Once heard, we cannot forget them. For though heaven and earth shall pass away these words will not pass away.

      The British writer Arnold Lunn tells about one time he was on a boat trip when a certain lady was plaguing him with theological questions. He answered her with quotes from the Bible and from the teaching of the Church but the woman would not accept what he said. Then he interrupted her to say, "you must be a very inexperienced boat traveler. As you got on the boat I noticed that you put your left foot on board first. Everyone knows that you will have bad luck if you step on a boat with your left foot first!" The next time she came on board he noticed that she nearly tripped into the water in her effort to step aboard right foot first. Lunn thought it remarkable that she would believe the infallible Lunn in something that he had just made up, and that she would not accept the authority of the Church or the words of Scripture. So, too, we tend to complicate our lives and our prayer by looking for the extraordinary, when the Lord is to be found most often in the simple and in the ordinary.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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