33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time  —  Cycle B  —  2018

First Reading                  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.”

Second Reading               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                   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.”

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Here we are at the end of this Church Year once again.  Next Sunday is Christ the King and then we enter into Advent.  Today the readings direct our attention to the end of time.  We are promised that if we are faithful, we shall not be destroyed.  We are promised that the Archangel Michael will be there helping us.  We are told that the one great sacrifice for sins has been made and we must cling to the Lord.  God will gather His elect and we must be ready.

Many people live in fear of the end of the world, the end of time, the great gathering of people by the Lord God.  It is awesome to think that one day we shall all be gathered to the Lord with all who have gone before us and those who many come after us.  The fear comes because there is always the possibility that I will not be counted among those who are chosen.

The first reading today is from the Book of Daniel tells us:  “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.”  This is the kind of statement that makes us have a bit of fear.  We hope that we shall be along those who shall live forever.

If we look at Scripture as a whole, this possibility of hell, of being rejected, is always there.  On the other hand, it is never the great focus of the Scripture.  The focus of Scripture is God’s everlasting love for us; God’s desire that all be saved; God’s walking with us to lead us in the path of salvation.  While we should always be aware of our capacity to reject God and to reject the ways of God, we should be more aware of God’s love for us and should try to respond to that love.  God invites us to know His love, His saving power, His delight in us.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews.  The point of this selection today is to remind us that any human high priest cannot make a complete amendment for our sins.  Neither you nor I can atone completely for our sins.  It takes Jesus, who is God and man, to make the one sacrifice for sins that never needs to be repeated.  Sin is vanquished in Christ Jesus.  On the other hand, sin is us is only overcome when we become one with Jesus Christ.  God truly loves us and sends His Own Son to take away sin so that we can live forever with God.

The Gospel from Mark is also about the final coming of the Lord and is clear that no one knows the day or the hour.  How often we hear predictions based on Scripture about when the end of the world will happen.  We should always listen politely and in our hearts listen to the words of the Lord:  “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

The challenge is not to know when the end is coming but to live today as if the end will be right now.  There is no sense in pretending with God.  God knows our hearts and our minds, even more than we do.  We must simply get on with living now as if this is our last moment—with no fear and no upset, completely trusting in the love of the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip