Author Note: In light of the recent events in Louisiana, Minnesota, Texas and anyplace we have yet to know, I thought this homily from 2012 might be of some interest. I hope you enjoy it.
HOMILY FOR THE 33RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Dn. 12:1-3/Heb. 10:11-14,18
Gospel: Mk. 13:24-32
At some moment in our life, we went through some pain that we thought would never go away. A pain so horrible that you would never think it would stay with you for the rest of your life. But just at the point you begin to accept the fact that the pain will be a part of you, it is taken away and, after some time, you begin to feel even better than you did before. I remember when I was about 5 or 6 I grabbed this old, wooden ladder we had around the house and when I dropped it my hands were full of splinters. I didn’t know what was more painful; the splinters in my hand or the tweezers used by my mom digging them out. That part seemed like a lifetime sitting on her lap under the light while she worked on those hands. My brothers and sister was watching from the living room as the “operation” was proceeding. One of my brothers chimed in “Why don’t we leave them in and let them come out by themselves?” I liked that idea. But just then my sister said “Nah. If we did that his hands would get infected and we would have to chop them off.” The screaming got much louder after that. Mom was trying to get them to stop talking while she was pulling out one splinter at a time. But she was always reassuring me that things would be better (“I promise,” she would say over and over) and to hang in there while I kept screaming my head off. When it was all over, I had so many Band-Aids on my hands I didn’t know what was my palm and what was plastic. I still remember the pain, but more importantly, I know the joy that came after.
In the Gospel that was proclaimed, in fact the entirety of Mark’s 13th Chapter, the focus is on the tragic events that will happen at the end of time. The Jewish people were accustomed to these stories, such as in the Book of Daniel, and were known as apocalyptic writings. This apocalypse they referred to was the destruction that will occur. Normally, these disasters would be in the form of earthquakes, wars, famine, pestilence and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was a warning that if the people did not repent of their ways, these events will be allowed by God to occur. Yet we find out that is only half of the story.
Jesus used these tales to present an apocalypse that was only the first step of our salvation. Rather than condemning those who were not very observant, Jesus spoke about these events as if this was just a stepping stone toward total happiness. I had read somewhere (I can’t remember at the moment) that apocalypse can be defined as “an uncovering, a stripping to essentials. It is not a prediction of the future, an excuse to judge others or to attempt to escape the needs of the world here and now.”
This is the definition that Christ uses to his disciples. He reassures those who are going through this that things will get better in the end. When this tribulation is over, Jesus tells them what is waiting for them at the end. “The Son of Man will send out his angels and gather his elect from the four winds.” Even when things seem the darkest; when everything is falling down on top of you; in the end everything will be just fine.
It is sometimes interchangeable the terms prediction and fortune telling. They seem to mean the same thing: To determine what is going to happen in the future. However, while fortune telling is based on broad assumptions, predictions are based on the pertinent facts that are around to make a conclusion. The prediction may not be exactly what would happen, but they are much closer than a fortune teller. This is where the Fig tree comes into play. The Fig tree was a symbol of the Jewish people and their faith. It has been cursed and blessed in many books of the Bible, including Mark. Jesus shows how when the leaves sprout out and the branches become tender, then someone can predict that summer in near. Such is the same manner he tells them that when these signs occur, then we can predict that he is returning. Just when, he doesn’t know, nor do we. Only God knows. But we must always be aware of these things happening so that we are prepared for his return.
We need not rely upon others to tell us when the Son of Man will return. We need only to watch and listen to the signs. We will go through some pain, but it will get better. I promise.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
Questions for Reflections:
- When were those times when you thought the pain that you had would last forever? Who took it away?
- How do you interpret the world around you? Do you allow those signs to tell you or do you allow your own prejudices to influence your interpretations?
- In light of recent events, do you see the world as hopeless and beyond saving or do you see this as the beginning to the path of greatness, as is noted in the Readings of the Day?