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.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
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.”
Although we do not generally spend a lot of time thinking about the end of the world or about what will happen when the world ends, there are times when such thinking is more common. When we came to the year 2000, there was much speculation about the end of the world. Today, people are concerned about December 21, 2012, when the Mayan calendar ends. At other times, there have been other dates that were seen as the end of the world.
Obviously, my world ends when I die—at least in some sense. For those of us who believe in eternal life, the world does not end nor do I end. At my death, my own world is transformed. For all of us, this physical world as we know it will end some day, whether we are here or not. This is not some esoteric belief, but simply the facts that relate to physical matter.
The concern in the Scriptures today has two points: that everyone will be judged and that how we live now is important for the world to come.
We hear first from the Book of Daniel about some kind of judgment or decision about those who have died. Some will awake, some will remain asleep and yet others will rise to a more terrible fate.
In Mark’s Gospel today, the image is different. An angel goes and gathers all the elect. The fate of the non-elect, if there are any, is not spoken about.
Sometimes we forget that our actions now are in some mysterious way related to our life after death. Salvation is entirely a gift of God and yet the way that we live is still important. If God is every day inviting us to live His life and we are consistently refusing that invitation, why should we think it will be different in eternal life? If God is inviting us and every day we try to live His life, this is our goal.
God wants us. It is as simple as that. God invites us daily to accept His love. All of the literature about the end of the world and about judgment can be reduced to this: God wants us. God invites us to choose Him. If we try to respond, then our world is transformed. It does not matter if the world ends today: we are already with God.
We could conclude with the Letter to the Hebrews. We have a High Priest now who actually pardons sins: by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Let us pray that we may be among the consecrated!