33 Sunday of the Year B
Dn 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32
As the end of the liturgical year draws near, the Church uses scripture passages referring to disasters in the world that can be expected toward the end of the world. Today is the next to the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday is Christ the King Sunday.
The Sunday after Christ the King Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, marking the New Year day of the church. The common theme of these three Sundays carries similar points. Christ is the center of human history. Jesus came to initiate the Christian era and he will come again to sum up the human history.
The liturgy of the word today uses an apocalyptic language, kind of symbolic language. That is the kind of language, which the prophet Daniel used to speak about a time of test that will pass away and God will come so that the just will shine brightly like the stars forever (Dn 12:3).
The Gospel also uses the apocalyptic language and thought in the Book of the Prophet Daniel. It discusses the final day: During that period of trials of every sort, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shed its light, stars will fall out of the skies, and the heavenly hosts will be shaken (Mk 13:24-25). Then it concludes: As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it (v.32).
When touching upon the last day, the scripture authors often relied on an apocalyptic language that is a symbolic language, difficult to understand about the last day. They mentioned disasters and calamities with destructive images in the universe such as wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and deaths. Images of destruction which the scripture authors used to talk about the last day had already happened somewhere in the world, not necessarily would happen in the future. The apocalyptic literature was supposed to be written before a disaster that would happen, to give a warning sign to readers, but actually written after a certain disaster already happened. Thus, images of destruction in the apocalyptic literature are not referred to events happening in the future. In other words, apocalyptic literature is not aimed to predict the future.
The meaning of the apocalyptic language is aimed to warn those hearers and readers that there will be the last day, and God will triumph. That is what will happen and what the Christian must believe. When the last day comes, things do not necessarily happen, as the apocalyptic language described. The use of the apocalyptic language has the only purpose of warning those who do not care or those who care only about worldly things . Thus, it does not mean that when wars, earthquakes and disasters happen, then the last day is at the doorstep.
However, if we understand the death of each individual as the last day, then when disasters and calamities occur can help give warning to that person. The final day may be understood as a day God calls a person from this world or a day when the world is ended.
The last judgment in the world is based on whether we have accepted and lived the word of God.
According to our human tendency, we tend to be indifferent, thinking we have more time to prepare ourselves spiritually for the final day. In reality, we know neither the day nor the hour when God calls us from this life. For us Christians when or how that day or hour comes, is not important to us. We cannot do anything when that day or hour comes. What important is we do prepare ourselves for that day or hour.
Thus, what view should we adopt about the final day? Some people think that the world would end very soon. They think the last day will come soon and they always worry and are afraid. A number of Christian denominations think in that fashion. Sometime ago, a certain Christian denomination predicted the end of the world would come in a particular year of his life. When that year passed by and nothing happened, they proposed another date for the end of the world.
The most recent prediction about the end of the world we heard of was year 2000. Just before the turn of the year 2000, some people bought and stocked candles in preparation for the dark days. Some asked for holy water – a lot of holy water – to sprinkle for fear that the devil would come out on the last day. Other people think the world will never end, and their lives will last forever. Therefore, they just eat, drink, and enjoy life. Of course, the two views are unrealistic and irresponsible.
Our thought and literature are filled with various sayings about time such as Time is money; time goes fast; time waits for no one. Time seems to be long when we look forward, especially when we are waiting for something. However, it is fast when we look back, especially when we are confined to working hours in an industrialized society. We cannot go before time. We cannot prolong time either because time belongs to God. Therefore, patience to wait in faith and hope must be our thought.
Prayer asking for patience to wait for the last day:
Oh God whom we adore.
You are my hope, my purpose and my reason to live.
I want to entrust all my life to you in your hands:
my body, soul, spirit and senses.
Teach me how to live each day as the last day of my life
so that I may live in grace and peace with you. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong
. Referred to Stuhlmueller, Carrol. ‘Post-exilic Period: Spirit, Apocalyptic’ in Jerome Biblical Commentary. Prentice – Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 1968. Sections 20:21-24