November 14, 2021 at St. Parishes in Naples, FL
Daniel 12, 1-3 + Psalm 16 + Hebrews 10, 11-14 + Mark 13, 24-32
Before we open our hearts to this message and revelation of this Gospel, we need to open our minds to the images the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel is using in order to understand what is being revealed. When Mark is writing this Gospel quoting Jesus, he either knows that the Romans have destroyed the Temple or that the army of Vespasian and his son Titus is at the gates. One of the main concerns for Mark is the warning of believers in Christ that everyone who claims to be Jesus or claims to be his follower should not be believed. There may be wars and rumors of war, but Mark wants believers to understand that this is not the time of the coming of Jesus in glory. All of that stuff, earthquakes, famines, conflicts have been seen many times, and they have nothing to do with the coming of Christ in glory. All that talk about chaos in the heavens refers to the collapse of earthly kingdoms and the end of religions that thought of the sun and the stars as gods. What Mark and the other Evangelists do with this kind of thinking is warn against speculation about when and how Christ will come again. We have all heard television preachers who peddle projected dates who have not studied the scriptures they profess to interpret.
We ought to understand and remember that God is not portrayed as angry and vengeful in these verses. When bad things happen, it is the result of human behavior. If anything, what we discover is that God can work through the mess we can make to intervene with mercy during times of great suffering. At the same time, when we pick up this unusual style of literature called “apocalyptic” we might simply shrug it off as too complicated or too theatrical. That’s a bad plan. What we have here is neither of prediction nor a description. It is a proclamation and reassurance.
What we hear is that human history will not end without the universal human recognition of Jesus Christ as the Lord of all history. When and what it will look like we do not know. What comes through loud and clear is that no matter what, false messiahs, earthquakes, wars, or famine, followers of Jesus will be supported by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel will reach all nations, and in the meantime, there is a lot of housekeeping to be done. That part comes at the end of the speech about servants working until the master comes.
What we take from this Gospel and what we take home from this celebration is not fear, but a glorious vision of hope. It speaks especially to those who have suffered from war and famine, to those who suffered the collapse of love, to those who face soon the certainty of death because no one is forgotten by God. Our lives can be formed by the kind of world we envision, and while we face a world to grieve over sometimes, there are times of joy and abundance, times of peace, and healing. Our hope, resting on Christ, Jesus must shape our lives because of our faith. If we hope for a future of justice and peace, we must read the signs of the times, so that this future may begin now.