The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
18 November 2018 at St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
Daniel 12, 1-3 + Psalm 16 + Hebrews 10, 11-14, 18 + Mark 13, 24-32
Today, the Book of Daniel and Mark’s Gospel invite us into the apocalyptic mindset which is a point of view that proclaims that the worst of times will give birth to the best of times. Apocalypse simply means an “uncovering”. So, apocalypse uncovers the hidden trajectory of the world. Apocalyptic visions present a panorama of destruction that will affect everyone, but not everyone will respond in the same way. Some will prepare for the apocalypse like those frightened citizens in the 1960s who dug shelters to save themselves from the nuclear war. People spent a great deal of time and energy (not to mention the cost) creating an illusion of security even to the point of teaching children how to duck and cover in case of a nuclear attack. Jesus warned his disciples to avoid that sort of behavior. He offers an alternative, hope.
Hope is the conviction that God is at work in our lives and in our world. It differs from optimism that is based on good odds and our own resources. Hope, for a disciple, is the certainty that God can transform any situation into an occasion of grace. Jesus went to the cross believing that God would raise him “on the third day” which meant in God’s good time. Jesus preached about an apocalypse to invite his disciples to share his hope, to believe that God continues to be at work even and especially when we do not perceive it.
Of the three great virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity, Hope is the greatest challenge. Faith is no great surprise. Creation is so magnificent, it is easy to believe in a creator greater than ourselves. Charity is no surprise either. Unless you have a heart of stone, suffering people always move us to gentle and kind charity. But hope is another thing altogether. It is always a surprise and a marvel of grace to stand in the midst of turmoil, danger, or fear and hope that God will do something in God’s own time.
Learning and growing into hope requires that we abandon our desire to duck and cover, our desire to hide from the suffering of this world. We cannot anesthetize ourselves in the face of suffering. All that does is make us blind to what is happening both the evil and the hidden good. The more we are challenged by these terrible realities, the more apocalyptic literature offers us hope. That hope comes from the truth that we are willing to proclaim our faith in spite of mockery and to stand in mourning with those victims of injustice. When we are willing and ready to face the fear, to share another’s suffering, recognize and condemn the evil of injustice all around us, we will be ready to perceive the Son of Man appearing among us not as an angry fearsome judge, but rather the Son of Man that Mark gives us; a man of forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. In the midst of this angry and violent world, that takes hope, a virtue for which we must now pray.