My friends, the official church calendar names next Sunday as the last Sunday in the Church Year, but in my mind, I always think of this Sunday, the 33rd in Ordinary Time as the end, looking toward next Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King as one to celebrate, with gratitude, all that Jesus, the Christ has been for us—a true brother and friend. And with that in mind, that his and God’s purpose (3 in 1) was never that he come as, “a king” to “lord it over us,” but really as a brother and friend, to show us the way to live and to love; I, as many of you know, have taken the liberty of re-naming next week’s feast, Jesus, Our Brother, and Friend.
But I am getting ahead of myself—we need today to concentrate then on all that this 33rd and last Sunday in Ordinary Time really means. Primarily, it is a time of “transition,” a fact that seems clear in today’s readings.
“End times” seem to be today’s focus and in order to understand the totality of meaning here, we need to remember that the Israelite people are dealing with two distinct meanings when thinking about “end times.” These two meanings are about, “end times,” yes, but also about, “the end of time.”
The “end times” were thought to be a time of transition, when suffering and hard times would be no more, when the Chosen One, whom Christians believe is Jesus, the Christ, will come again in glory to make all things right and the kin-dom will be celebrated before the face of God, in that wonderful reality. It is a tremendously hope-filled image that is attractive to many people. The cinema has played into this image of a time of justice when good, will reign—in the epic series, The Lord of the Rings, and in the Star Wars movies.
The “end of time” is another time, and when that time will come, none of us knows, or in fact understands just how it will be—it would appear that Jesus, in his humanity didn’t even know. We will just have to trust that all will unfold according to God’s loving plan. The reading from Hebrews today says as much—that in fact, in Jesus, all will be well. So why, we might ask, are we given frightening images—of the sun and moon going dark—of stars falling from the sky? Exegetes tell us that some of this talk in Mark’s gospel today may have been a “cover for the people” from their enemies as a result of the subversive tone of some of Jesus’ teachings
The Israelites were told overtime, that what they were suffering would come to an end—the Chosen One would eventually alleviate their sufferings—this was their hope. This knowledge that their God did hear their cries and would come to save them, gave them the will to go on. In faith, we must believe the same, especially in these times of so much upheaval in Church and State—talk about “frightening images!”
The Church in its hierarchy just can’t seem to do the right thing—coming together for the good of all—truly speaking the message of our brother Jesus, where women, the disadvantaged, and the abused—in so many ways, are concerned. Pope Francis is trying, but alas…
Our nation is struggling at present, with many “navel-gazing,” as it were, on themselves, unable to see that individual actions do affect, and in the case of COVID, “infect” others. When our personal rights and privileges stand in the way of those same rights and privileges for others, something is wrong that could benefit from looking at the example of our brother Jesus in his life with us.
Our nation as well as the nations of the world, meeting in Glasgow, Scotland these past two weeks to discuss climate change, would do well to listen to the Spirit that is being proclaimed through the young people who are attending this conference, who will inherit the continued devastation of our beautiful earth if we don’t come together and make the needed changes.
Their frustration, felt by many, over the lack of collective, meaningful ways to care for the earth was probably said no better than by 18-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden who in response to the promises made by those present, pledging changes in the future— “bla, bla, bla!” Greta and other young activists don’t believe that those of us who can actually bring about change, mean it!
So, my friends, the placing of “end times” and “the end of time” readings on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is most appropriate as we wind down one Church Year and move into a new one with the coming of the holy, preparatory season of Advent in just two weeks. We are called to reflect on what has been, what we have helped to change that has needed change and how we propose to move forward.
The changes that are needed are many—none of us can do all, but together, we could do so much! From the valiant, on-going work of the Thursday morning writers—to our own personal contacts with legislators, demanding that they stop wasting time and get the peoples’ work done. Pray for those in these positions where change can happen that they do what is right in Church and State and pray for those who have no intention of changing, as they are just in it for themselves. And pray for all the “closed minds” in the general public who are responding rather selfishly. And most of all, never lose hope my friends—never lose hope.
Our forebears in the faith never lost faith or ceased to hope, at least, collectively—nor should we. Determine what needs to be done in any situation and then do the “piece” that is yours to do.
The first reading from Daniel lets us know that “The wise will shine like bright heavens and the leaders of justice like the stars forevermore.” A symbol, good and true for us as Christians, followers of our brother Jesus has always been, “light.” We believe that he is “our light” in the darkness. Knowing as he told us, when gracing this earth, “that I will be with you always— “lighting the way,” as it were, we really have no reason to doubt, no reason to fear, but simply live in the present, attempting each day to do our best. Amen? Amen!