Jesus said, “Be alert and watch” (Mk 13:33)

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Daniel 12:1 - 3

In those days, I Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. "But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."

Hebrews 10:11 - 14, 18

Brothers and sisters: Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.

Mark 13:24 - 32

Jesus said to his disciples: "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. "And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. "Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

As Jesus and his disciples went out of the temple, one of them was admiring the temple building and Jesus said to him, “Not one stone will be left upon another, but all will be torn down” (Mk 13:2). Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple prompted questions from Peter, James, John, and Andrew who asked him in private, “Tell us when this will be. What sign will be given us before all this happens?” (13:4).

There would be wars, earthquakes and famines. Jesus responds, “Brother will betray brother, even to death” (13:12). His church will greatly suffer, “[They] will be … taken to Jewish courts … beaten in synagogues … stand before governors and kings for [his] sake to bear witness before them” (13:9); “False messiahs and false prophets will arise … to deceive even God’s chosen people” (13:22).

Then Jesus speaks of cosmic disturbances – “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (13:24) – in the manner of the prophets as in Isaiah 13:10, “The sun is dark when it rises, and the light of the moon does not shine”. These are not literal predictions; Jesus turns the language of the prophecy towards Jerusalem to condemn its pagan ways, forecast its doom and to emphasize the magnitude of God’s dreadful judgment (Ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament P 91).

Jesus goes on to say, “[P]eople will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (13:26). Jesus is identifying himself with the son of man, the OT royal figure, “One like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven … Dominion, honor and kingship were given him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served him … his kingdom shall never be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14). The oracle foretells Jesus’ heavenly ascension and his second coming in glory. Jesus, who has conquered evil, is now enthroned in heaven, exercising his kingship over the world through His church (Ref. ICSB NT P 141).

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus’ talk of cosmic catastrophes and future judgement of God leads some to believe that Jesus is predicting his second coming and the end of the physical world. This interpretation seems to take Jesus’ words at face value. A better interpretation of Jesus’ words in the context of ancient Judaism is that He is predicting the demise of the Jerusalem temple. There is a similar OT event when God allowed the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C. as punishment of Israel’s sins (Ref. 2 Kings 25:8-10). The Jerusalem temple was the architectural symbol of the Old Covenant. With the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by Roman legions, claiming the lives of one million Jews, the Old Covenant world was brought to a violent and dramatic end. (Ref. ICSB NT P 50, 90).

With the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the Old Covenant world and God’s vengeance on those who have rejected Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus’ prediction that “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place … my words will not pass away” stands vindicated in the lifetime of his contemporaries (30-31, Ref. ICSB NT P 50).

When will this be? “[N]o one knows … but only the Father”, Jesus said (13:32). His advice to Peter, James, John, and Andrew, “Don’t let anyone mislead you” (13:5) and “Be alert and watch” (13:33), is equally relevant to us who are now awaiting his second coming. The present time is not only the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time of distress and evilness that ushers in the struggles of the last days. While this is a time of waiting and watching, the second coming could happen at any moment (Ref. CCC 672, 673).

As we are waiting and watching the distress and evilness of the day, often with restlessness, let us find hope and joy, courage and consolation from Daniel’s prophecy in the first reading. May we be among the wise who “shall shine like the brightness of the sky” and who that “lead many to righteousness, [shall shine] like the stars forever” (Dan 12:3).

Posted: November 14, 2021

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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