We are now drawing close to the end of our Church's religious and liturgical year. Thus our readings this weekend focus on the end times of our world, which is the return of Jesus Christ in his Second Coming. This usually is not a topic we think about or talk about. Some do, however and they usually make it sound scary and frightening. Our readings today approach all of this differently, these readings call us to faith and draw on our faith to help us face the end times without trepidation.
Our first passage comes from the Book of Daniel which was written about two hundred years before the birth of Jesus. This was a time when the tyranny of despots sought to break the heart and spirit of the people of Israel. In order to lift up and mend the spirit and heart of Israel, the prophet Daniel arose in the land of Israel. The Book of Daniel is a collection of victorious visionary writings of his, in which each vision talks about the inevitable triumph of God over evil and that Israel had its own imperishable life in God.
From the point of view of today's Mass, our passage functions to serve as an assurance of good things to come. It is important for religious people to remember no matter how heart-breaking, faith-shaking, or spirit-crushing the events of life may be in our lives that a time is coming when our faith in God as the Lord of All will be proved very true. No matter what has happened to us that we suffer, this suffering will end. To those of us who hold strong in the face of persecution, who stand firm in faith and whose hearts remain open, the future is assured and bright. There is a time coming when it will be our turn to shine forever as announced by Daniel.
Our second reading also tells us that this is all true. The writer of this letter indicates for us that Christ's sacrifice for us was not only perfect and true, but also once and for all. The ancient priests were obliged to repeat sacrifices "day by day" and to offer them "again and again." Christ's sacrificial "offering" is complete. This sacrifice does not need to be repeated or re-done. In effect, it is permanent for all time.
In our passage from Mark's Gospel there is a crowd of Jewish converts who were overwhelmed and unnerved. The wild and violent times in which they were living frightened them and made them wish for Jesus to come again and rescue them. Mark informs them that the time of triumph has already begun with the resurrection of Jesus. He discourages them from relying on ancient signs and images and encourages them to rely on the faith that God will keep His promises and act on their behalf. Thus Mark plainly tells his listeners that the matter of their ultimate salvation is already settled. He informs them that they are already in the end times; the end of the old dispensation has occurred and now is the beginning of a radically new time that has begun with the Resurrection. He tells them no one knows the "exact day or hour" of Christ's coming again, but in fact Christ will come. This will all happen in God's good time.
Bear in mind that today's readings point to the end times; reminding us that God's reign is already begun. We must come to realize that our task is neither to avoid nor to fear unusual and dire events of nature, but instead to seek out broken hearts to heal and captives to free. Our faith in Jesus tells us that that salvation and victory are already ours. All we need do is claim and act upon them.
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