Bulletin: November 14, 2021
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The end is near! Many of us recall such predictions from religious sources, mostly small evangelical sects but even the larger Jehovah’s Witnesses. Catholics, too. For instance, Pope Saint Clement of Rome declared the end is near for the year 90; his successor Pope Sylvester II for 1000; and Innocent III predicted 1284 as the world’s end by adding 666 years to the date of Islam’s beginning. The end is near! Today’s Liturgy of the Word opens with Daniel’s prediction of “a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began” (Daniel 12:1), for some “an everlasting horror and disgrace” (12:2). In today’s Gospel, Jesus seems to describe precisely what Daniel’s vision will look like: “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 the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (Mark 13:24–25). The end is near! Well, at least the end is certain, based on these scriptures proclaimed ominously midway through this month of All Saints and All Souls.
LISTENING WITH JOYFUL HOPE
If the end is near or at least coming for certain, Someone else is even nearer, indeed with us already! For one thing, today’s Hebrews reading offers us this blessed assurance: “by one offering (Jesus) has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated” (Hebrews 10:14). So, by the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ, forgiveness is ours, our “consecration” having begun in Baptism. Christ’s sacrifice, offered once and for all on the cross, is now made ever present in the Church’s Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Mass. But even before we hear Hebrews proclaim such Good News, we need to listen with joyful hope to Daniel. For, at that very time Daniel declares “unsurpassed in distress,” Daniel promises “at that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). Recalling Hebrews again, the writing of Daniel’s “book,” namely the Book of Life, begins when our names are inscribed on the day of our baptism.
GOOD NEWS IN THE END
Seen then as positive, Daniel’s predictions blossom even more beautifully in Jesus’ Good News. Indeed, Jesus invokes that very image: “Learn a lesson from the fig tree” (Mark 13:28). Consider well: Jesus does not predict produce that comes forth withered, or even worse, poisoned, ending in (for many of us) winter’s forthcoming thick clouds, deep snow, and brutal cold. Placing before our eyes instead a gloriously lovely and positive image, Jesus declares: “When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near” (12:28). So where is the “Gospel good” in today’s passage? Precisely in what happens after “that tribulation” and “the powers being shaken” in the Gospel’s opening lines (12:24–25). For Jesus promises that we will “see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory’ ” (12:26). Jesus “will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky” (12:27): Jesus’ whole family gathered together, the little and lowly lifted up, the lost sheep found. Tender indeed is Jesus’ mercy; blessed fruit that endures and nourishes us into eternity! So, we hope indeed that the end is near!