Our Lord reminds us in today’s Gospel that we do not know the day or the hour when the Son of Man will return in glory.We do know the day and hour that my time as the Opening the Word columnist will come to an end. With two weeks left, I want to highlight themes that have run throughout my five years of writing. Today, I turn to the seriousness of the preaching of Jesus.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is in Jerusalem.
The end of his public ministry is near. In the days ahead, he will celebrate a meal with his disciples. He will give his Body and his Blood in that final Passover. And then he will die upon the cross, to be raised three days later.
Before these events, Jesus speaks with a seriousness that should be terrifying.
He speaks of the end of days. The apocalypse. The sun will be darkened. The moon will no longer give light.
But like the prophet Daniel, the final tribulations are not the last chapter.
When all seems lost, the Son of Man shall come in glory. Son of Man refers in Daniel to the one who comes at the end of time to conquer the nations.
And Jesus applies this imagery to himself. At the end of time, he has come. He will come again. The elect, those who have been faithful to the kingdom of God, shall be gathered.
|November 14 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time|
Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
Heb 10:11-14, 18
When is this going to take place? It’s only natural to wonder. If we knew the hour, then we could get our house in order.
Jesus turns to the fig tree. He does not speak of its destruction, as we might suppose. Rather, he gives a word of consolation. You know when the leaves of the tree are starting to look full. At that moment, summer is near.
Summer is a time not of darkness but of light. A time not of death but new life. Jesus then tells the crowds that this generation will not pass away before summer has come. Before the time of final judgment.
We Christians know what Jesus is referencing. The cross is the definitive revelation of the Son of Man. Out of the darkness of human sin and violence, love shines forth with splendor.
But we also know that Christ, crucified, died, risen and ascended to the Father will come again. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
We do not know when that will take place. And that’s why we must take Jesus’ preaching seriously. Yes, the world will pass away. But the words of Jesus will not. He tells us that today in the Gospel.
We, the Church, must reflect whether we are prepared to receive Our Lord at the end of time.
Do we take the Gospel seriously? Or have we fallen into the privatized Christianity that so many Americans are comfortable with?
The Good News is that Jesus’ words have not passed away. They’re spoken each day in our churches.
There’s still time to change, to watch and wait for the coming of the Lord.
The Lord who comes in Holy Scripture as we chew upon the wisdom of the text. The Lord who comes in the Eucharist as we eat and drink his Body and Blood. The Lord who comes in the hungry and thirsty, and in those despised because of the color of their skin.
We must take all of this more seriously than we do. Only then will we recognize the coming of the Son of Man at the end of time.
This is all very serious, indeed.
Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.