God's Reign Has Already Begun

11-18-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

The Wheel of Life always continues to turn and now we are approaching the end of our Church Liturgical year. The scripture at Mass now starts to focus on the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end times. “End times” is not necessarily a fun and happy topic for most people. Today’s readings, however, help us with a perspective of how to understand the end for any one of us, no matter what age we are.

Our first reading from the Book of Daniel was written about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus. At that time Israel was suffering under the tyranny of vicious leaders. The prophet Daniel rose up to call the people back to a full and strong heart. In this holy book attributed to him, we find a collection of wonderful visionary writings, each of which tells us of God’s triumph over evil and Israel’s own never-ending life in God.

This reading from Daniel offers as an assurance of good things to come. It reminds us that no matter how heart‑breaking the events of life may be, a time is coming when our faith in God as the Lord of life will be proved ever so true. No matter what, our oppression will end. To those of us whose faith is steadfast and firm or whose hands do justice, the future is assured and bright. Daniel tells us that a time is coming when it will be our turn to shine forever.

Daniel’s words powerfully persuade us that rescue and redemption are ours as does the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. This passage points out that Christ’s sacrifice for us was not only perfect and true, but most importantly once and for all. Ancient sacrifices - temple sacrifices - were not efficacious for the removal of sin. In most of the religions of then, priests were obliged to “stand” and repeat such sacrifices “day by day,” to offer them “again and again.” Note that Christ, on the other hand, is depicted as “seated.” This means that his sacrificial “offering” is completed and done forever. It needs no repeating, no re‑doing.

In our passage from Mark, we know he is addressing a group of Jewish converts who were overwhelmed and unnerved. In the era in which they were living, life was frightening and overwhelming and they were looking hard for Jesus to come again and rescue them. Thus Mark has Jesus drawing on triumphant images in his words. We Christians now see these images heralding the Second Coming.

Most importantly, Mark continues and lets his audience know that the time of triumph has already begun with Jesus’ resurrection. They are to rely on their faith that God will keep promises and act on their behalf. To this end, Mark assures his listeners that the matter of their ultimate salvation is already settled. He tells them that they are already in the end time, the end of the old dispensation and the beginning of a radically new time that has begun with the Resurrection. Even though no one knows the “exact day or hour” of Christ’s coming again, for sure Christ will come, all in God’s good time.

Some people think we are not interested in visionary images and writings, especially about end times. This is untrue. Films, TV and books all are caught up in this. Sci-Fi in particular often has these themes. As Christians, bear in mind that rescue is already ours. Today’s readings point to the end times, reminding us that God’s reign is already begun. We need not fear at all, but be about the holy work of caring for the fragile, the lost and the hurt.

Happy Thanksgiving: On behalf of the Ministerial, Pastoral and Professional Staff, Deacon Guy, Father Jack and myself, I wish to offer a “Happy Thanksgiving” to you and all those you hold close in your heart.

Father Brian