The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
November 18, 2018 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 13:24-32
Today’s gospel offers a dramatic description of how the world will end. It’s not written by an historian or a scientist. It is created by the imagination of Jesus who used stirring images well-known in his time. Those who questioned Jesus about this were not concerned with “how” this ending would happen, but rather, “when” it would it happen.
Reading this gospel carefully, we are given the impression that Jesus himself didn’t know. Only God did. This is a reminder that the human Jesus had limited knowledge. If he didn’t experience our limitations, he would not be human. Yes, he was also divine, but that did not take anything away from his human nature. Still, what he says about “the end” is important.
First of all, he is clear that God is in charge. When the end comes (for us individually and for humanity as we know it) it will be God’s doing. And yes, there will be an end. At least to this life. Quoting from the gospel, heaven and earth (this refers to “the heavens” or the space above us - not heaven where God is) will come to an end. How will that happen? We don’t know. Only God does. We can create imaginative scenarios, like the one Jesus used borrowing from popular descriptions of his time. But those details are simply imaginative. And not to be read as literal. They also can be read for their symbolic meaning. Writers of current science fiction use parts of these descriptions in their writings.
Note especially this passage: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Jesus is leading us to think of “timelessness” or of those matters that will never come to an end. When we hear and accept God’s authentic word to us, we are given an understanding of ourselves (and everything else) that will never be old or change or cease to be meaningful – even after everything else passes away.
The words or message of God is for our comfort and support. They are not given to cause us to be afraid or fearful. The most common expression of comfort in the gospels is “do not be afraid.” We may think that we are in danger because of various human difficulties and tragedies. But God is there, offering us strength and hope.
But in the end, we are to trust in God’s love and deep compassion and mercy for us. God will never change. Nor will God destroy us. That’s not in God’s game plan. Rather God’s plan is an expression, a manifestation of God’s love. It is a message for us in our family life and in all the ways we relate to each other. The end will be a wonderful expression of God’s deep love for us. Not even our enemies will escape God’s mercy and forgiveness.
©David M. Thomas, PhD