Daniel 12:1-13; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN
The readings today present us with messages about the coming of Christ. These messages are also called “End times messages”; they are not to be understood as predictions about the end of the world but a farewell address. Old Testament records show that every Guru prior to his departure gives instructions to his disciples; Jacob did it in Gen.49:1-27 when he gathered all sons and addressed them before his death; Moses in Deu. 33; Joshua in Joshua 23 and Samuel in 1Sam.12. So, Jesus did same thing to his disciples.
On the contrary, today’s prophets and apostles have bastardized the above understanding. They see end time messages as predictions about the end of the world and reasons for anxiety. Beloved, eschatological and apocalyptical or endtime readings are not to make us panic but preserve us in time of tribulation and distress. They are not to frighten us but to strengthen us. The coming of Christ is not a disaster but a joyful expectation. Therefore, do not be anxious! Having said that, let us now look at some basic themes in the readings.
“The Words of Jesus”: The words of Jesus will not pass away(Mark 13:31). We constantly experience the fact that everything passes away. Just as the previous years had passed away so all of us will pass away. Our savings will pass away and our positions will pass away. But the words of Christ will not pass away. Not to pass away means that it will leave forever. 1John 2:17 says “The world is passing away and also its lusts but the one who does the will of God will live forever.” Daniel says in the first reading many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting disgrace. Therefore, let us do the will of God and come to that everlasting life.
“The day of the Lord’s coming”: We must stand against falsehood; in Mark 13:32 Jesus says “about the day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. All predictions about the day of the Lord’s coming are false. Many preachers and prophets claim to know when the world will end and they give different predictions in their crusade grounds. Today, we are told to put aside our fanciful calculations of dates and instead lead a true Christian life now.
“Unprepared death”: Generally, today’s readings invite us to avoid unprepared death. The Gospel acclamation, Luke 21:36 says; “Watch at all times, praying that you may be able to stand before the Son of man.” We need to watch and pray; Luke 22:46 says “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you don’t fall into temptation.” Whoever watches and prays remains standing; many have fallen because they were not watching nor praying. Others fell equally because they prayed but did not watch. Some watch but did not pray. Followers of Christ must watch and pray. To watch is to be vigilant; so while you pray guide against vices.
Another way to avoid unprepared death is to say the prayers of the Church daily. One of the best prayers in this regard is the Holy Rosary; …the second part of that prayer says, “Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”; the purgatorian prayers; Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, to mention a few. Today’s first reading reminds us of the role of St. Michael the archangel; he has charge over us; the reading tells us that he shall come to deliver us from the great tribulations and the dust of the earth. So take these prayers very seriously.
Lastly, we can avoid unprepared death through fervent commitment to the sacraments; Baptism, Holy Communion, Confession, Anointing of the sick etc. We must strive to be united with him. If we are united with him now we shall be united with him in the world to come. Psalm 16 of today explains this further when it says; “My heart rejoices and my soul is glad; even my flesh shall rest in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to hell, nor let your holy one see corruption.” Beloved, we do not know when Christ shall come; neither do we know when the world shall end. We can’t even prevent death; but we can avoid an unprepared death.
LET US PRAY
Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen
Fr. Galadima Bitrus (OSA)
DATING AND DETECTING THE SIGNS OF THE TIME
We are in the last days of the liturgical year and the calendar year is rounding up too. The readings are chosen to reflect this sense of the last days or the end of the time, providing the consolation and encouragement necessary to deal with the tiredness and the tendency to give up that comes often with approaching the end of any task.
The 1st Reading is from Dan 12:1-3. The book of Daniel takes its name from its main character, Daniel. Its literary genre is predominantly apocalyptic, a coded language characteristic of writings produced during moments of persecution, hiding secrets to outsiders but revelatory to its intended audience (insiders) since it purports to unveil heavenly secrets. As such, the book is dated to the 2nd century B.C.E. (ca. 165), written shortly before the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164 B.C.E., a Greek Hellenistic king of the Seleucid Empire, known for his persecution of the Jews and under whose reign the rebellion of the Jewish Maccabees took place.
It is in the context of the Jewish persecution that the figure Daniel exhorts the Jews to remain firm in faith, counting on the help of God through his defense minister, the Angel Michael, who shall stand with the people of God throughout their time of unequalled trouble. Daniel assures the chosen people of the Lord’s deliverance (12:1). It shall be also a time of the resurrection of the dead, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt, the former indicating the resurrection of Jews who died faithful to the Lord and the latter indicating the resurrection of Jews who died in apostasy as well as enemies of the people of God.
It is in this context, therefore, that we see clearer outlines of the Jewish theology of Angels and of the Resurrection, the former providing assurance to the living under existential threats and the latter in view of the reward and punishment of the faithful and faithless dead respectively. Both theologies will find their fuller development in the New Testament and early Christianity.
For the people of God, every moment of difficulty overcome is a sign of the definitive victory over evil. As we read in James 1:2, “My brothers, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing”. In the beatitudes, in fact, the persecuted are considered happy or blessed and are invited to rejoice and be glad (cf. Mt 5:10-12).
The 2nd Reading (Heb 10:11-14.18) emphasizes the singularity of Christ’s sacrifice and its effectiveness for definitive victory over sin and the enemy. As we read in Heb 10:12-13, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’, and since then has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet’”, which is a reference to Ps 110, and implies definitive victory over the enemy.
The Gospel Reading is from Mk 13:24-32. Mk 13 is situated between the end of Jesus’ teachings in Mk 12 and the beginning of his passion in Mk 14. Its language is markedly apocalyptic. This apocalyptic chapter of Mark’s Gospel reveals some secrets, in answer to the question of his disciples, Peter, James, John and Andrew.
As they made their way out of the Temple, the disciples were admiring its magnificence and calling Jesus’ attention they said, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings” (Mk 13:1). Jesus then prophesied the destruction of the Temple, saying, “Do you see these great buildings? No one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down” (Mk 13:2).
Therefore, when they arrived at Mount Olives, the four disciples went to Jesus privately to ask him, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Mk 13:4). Note that the question of the disciples was specifically on the date and the sign when Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the magnificent buildings of the temple will be accomplished, not about the end of time or of the world.
Jesus began his response with the second part of the question, the question of the sign, revealing not one particular sign but many signs, among which were to be the appearance of some figures impersonating him (vv.5-6.21-23), as well as occurrences of wars and rumors of wars (v.7-8a), earthquakes and famines in various places (v.8b), persecutions of Christ’s disciples (vv.9-11), fractionalization of families on account of Christ (vv.12-13), untold suffering (vv.14-20), with intermittent assurances of salvation for the elect (vv.13b.20).
The passage of our gospel reading (Mk 13:24-32) includes among the signs also cosmic phenomena of the darkening of the sun and the inability of the moon to shine, the falling down of the stars and the shaking of the powers of the heavens (vv. 23-25).
All these show a falling apart of everything, not only the Temple. Everything seems to be failing to accomplish the function for which it exists: the earth fails to produce crops for food but resorts to quaking, hence, the inevitability of famine; authorities fail to protect but resort to persecution; families fail to be centres of unity but become incubators of division; the sun, moon and stars fail to shine the light etc. In other words, all of creation is in a state of corruption and is yearning for redemption. As Paul would put it in Rom 8:22-23, “We know that the whole of creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies”.
It is at this point that the Messiah and Redeemer must appear with great power and glory and refill the earth with divine presence, sending out the angels to gather the elect and unite the world (vv.26-27). As for the question of time, it remains an eschatological secret known only to the Father. As we read in Mk 13:32: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, only the Father”, whose initiative it is to redeem the world by sending his Son and his ministers.
Our world at this moment manifests all these signs of corruption and failure of everything and everybody to accomplish the purpose for which we exist. We therefore, are in most need of an end to the present order of things. We need a renewal of the redeeming and salvific presence of God in Christ Jesus in our world and in our lives, to restore everything and everybody to God’s original plan and to make the world once more God’s kingdom defined by faith, hope and love, justice and compassion, forgiveness and peace.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
THE SALVATION OF THE JUST AS THE END OF TIME
Lord, you will show me the path of life (Psalm 16:11)
The liturgical year is fast coming to an end. The liturgy does not just want us to see this as a normal routine that cycles come and go; instead, the end of a cycle should remind us of the necessary end that we will definitely face someday. So, the readings of today, particularly the first and gospel readings, symbolically described the end that must come to everyone and everything, and the fate of those who have belonged to God while on earth. The first message here is that the end is sure to come. We should not be oblivious of this fact. Sometimes, it takes the death of someone we have known for us to be reminded of the necessary end. At such moments, we seem to be more conscious of the fact that this world is not our home. But then, we are often times too quick to let go of this consciousness and resume our “normal” lives. It is not just about being conscious of the end but the ability to live with the wisdom of such consciousness.
The first and the gospel readings both describe the end in turbulent and discomforting languages such that has never been experienced before. It is not too difficult to understand this. Consider the feelings you have when someone you know dies, especially when such death was never anticipated. For example, if someone in his 50s dies of prostate cancer, those having similar health challenge will be disturbed, men in that age bracket too will be disturbed and even the younger men will be concerned about how to avoid such in their later years. The experience is not different for females in a case of breast cancer. The point is, when someone dies, it says to us that we can die too. How and when is immaterial.
The end will be turbulent because it will mean a change in the state of our being. Change itself is often times a challenge. However, we are consoled that the Lord will be in the change that comes with the end. The tribulation will not mean the triumph of evil over good but the taking home of the good by the Lord himself. So, at the end of time, the Lord will come to take to himself those who have belonged to him while they lived on earth.
Those who will be left behind will not die because in death life is only changed not ended. It therefore means that those left behind will be homeless. For an immortal being to be in a perpetual state of unrest is a classical definition of hell. We do not want to be homeless even for a night; therefore, we must do all that is possible to ensure that we are not homeless for all eternity. Only Jesus has a home in eternity and the capacity to bring us into it: “in my father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jn.14:2).
It is for this reason that the psalmist cried: Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. To be preserved by God does not only mean to enjoy divine protection but also to live according to the dictates of God’s commandments. The one who is governed purely by God’s Word is evidently been preserved by God. There are many things that suggest to us that they are capable to preserving life such as: money, connection, fame and so on. To some extent and at some time, their claim may be valid. But it is only God that has the capacity to preserve us here in this world and in the world to come. Only God’s preservation is timeless and boundless. Therefore, only in God can we find true refuge.
Thus the second reading reminds us that by a single offering, Christ has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. The sanctification of Christ is salvation, thus those who are sanctified are saved. Beloved, do you allow the Lord to sanctify you daily through his Word and Sacraments? Our honest answer to this question is our state of readiness for the necessary end that cannot be evaded. God Bless You!
Fr. Stephen Udechukwu
Live a good life that you may have a good end
It is often said that whatever has a beginning must have an end. This therefore means that everything in this world must one day come to an end including the world itself even though many of us live as though the world will never end. Many of the passages in the bible speak and remind us of the end. 1Cor. 15:14 says “then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God and Father…” In Matthew 13:40 Jesus talking about the end says “So just as the trees are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of age”. And St. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:7 that “the end of all things is near, therefore be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer”. In fact each year nature reminds us of this inevitable fact of the end of the world. For example even though it is still raining, the grasses are becoming dry and in fact this is the time trees produce their best flower and you know after flowering comes death. In about 47 days from now this year will come to an end, everybody now is getting ready to end the year. People are closing their meetings, farmers are harvesting their products, and Churches are organizing harvest which is thanksgiving. Our liturgical year is coming to a close; next Sunday is Christ the King which is the last Sunday of the year after which the Church begins her new year.
Every year at this point no matter the cycle, the Church calls her children and members and reminds them of the end. She reminds them of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Hence our first reading from the book of Daniel which was written in the second century before the death of Antiochus in 164 B.C also brings to mind the fact about the end of the world. However it brings to mind that after the end of the world which will be disastrous, will follow a new and everlasting existence. This new existence will be one of unending joy and happiness for those who are found worthy but for others who did not think of it or prepare for it; it will be a life of unending shame and sorrow.
The same discourse about the end of time is what continued in our gospel reading; it is commonly called Eschatological discourse of Jesus I.e. his discourse about the last things. In Mark 13:23 Jesus had talked about the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem which happened forty years later in 70A.D and the end of this world. And so the apostles, being disturbed by all these sayings about the end of the world, asked him when it would take place.
Dearly beloved in Christ, today the Church through the readings reminds us of what is ahead of us and what we ought to do about it. Every business man at the end of every year takes stock of his business. If he finds that all is going well, he resolves to continue or to improve things. If his business is going down, he will search for the cause of the downfall and resolve to do all in his power to fix his business back.
Today we are all called to take stock of our lives. Our real life, the eternal life of happiness or misery depends on how we spend our years on earth. Unfortunately many of us are wasting the years the Lord has given to us and this will mean that we will arrive empty handed to meet the Lord who will throw us to an everlasting burning. In which category will we fall after our life here on earth, is it among the category of those God will tell “come oh you blessed of my father and possess the kingdom prepared for you” or you will be among those he will tell “go away from me for I do not know you”. The answer and the decision is ours. If we value our eternal happiness; if we really want to go to heaven, we will make peace with God and our neighbours, we will persevere in doing good and we will do all in our power to keep away from sin, we must make good use of each and every day, we must know that each day is a chance which will never be repeated. Unfortunately many of us are not thinking of our end. We have forgotten that the world is like a scaffolding structure whose work is temporary. So I ask you, how will your end be? May the Lord grant us the grace of a happy end. Amen.
HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU
Fr. Galadima Bitrus (OSA)