Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Son of Man.jpg

 Mark 13. 24-32

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”

In today’s reading Jesus uses some dramatic imagery: “the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” He presents the end of time in language familiar to his Jewish listeners, to be understood as apocalyptic imagery rather than literally as a prophecy of what is actually going to happen. To fully understand what Jesus is saying we need to listen to the whole passage. We tend to get stuck on the calamitous element and fail to hear the real message.

Mark wrote his account of the Gospel for the Christians in Rome who were suffering the most savage persecution under Nero. The entire purpose of his writing was to give them courage and strength to persevere when it must have seemed that, for them, the world was coming to a frightening end. That the end will come is sure for all of us, whether in our own individual death or in some great cataclysmic event. However, says Jesus, no one, not even he himself, knows when that will come. So, to be forever preoccupied with ‘the end’ serves no purpose. What does matter is that, ultimately, “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory … to gather his chosen”. That is the Gospel message, the truly Good News: beyond the darkest days of this world we will see the triumph of goodness as the Lord gathers us to himself.

Strengthened by belief in this promise we can give ourselves with sustained effort to the work our Lord has entrusted to us, to proclaim in words and works the Gospel of God’s kingship. Though living in a time of gloom and anxiety, especially about climate change and the attendant calamities forecast to descend upon us, we still hold on to the vision. His word will stand, whatever is to come. Far from shielding us from darkness or excusing us from concern, our faith encourages us to go on working for a better world in trust, in hope and in love.