33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s readings it seems that we have reached the end. The apocalypse is upon us, the world is falling apart, the heavens are falling and we are to be destroyed. This is not so.
Yes it may look like the end, but not as we know it. This Sunday is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time and traditionally this last week speaks of the final coming of Christ in which he gathers all His people to himself.
Jesus speaks of the coming of the Son of Man in glory, the final establishment of the kingdom and reign of God. Many people will come under that reign while many others will fall away into darkness. The Son of Man is understood to be Jesus himself, appearing in glory. The prophet Daniel describes the Son of Man coming on clouds, victorious; he comes with glory and great power. In the Gospel, St. Mark writes also within this same prophetic tradition. All signs point to the sky, the sun, moon and stars, which were seen as cosmic disturbances describing manifestations of God’s judgement.
The Ancients believed that the sun, moon and stars represented deities who controlled world affairs and history. Now they are being shown as helpless under the power of God. The Israelites believed that when God acted these celestial bodies would be disturbed. The moon and sun would stop giving of light, and the stars would fall. The early Christians waited for the coming of Christ and they expected him to come in their lifetime as Jesus himself said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.”
What has this to do with the fig tree, the coming of Christ and the end? The second half of the gospel explains everything. The fig tree only produces leaves in late spring so when they appear summer is upon us. Jesus is saying that although the end of the world is to be expected, his disciples are to meet this expectation in faith and hope. We are waiting for his return, for his coming to us. Although Jesus describes the end of the world, he means that there will be good times, the Summer for his disciples. God will bring everything to its triumphant culmination in God. This victory will see all other gods fall away and reveal that God as the one true God. Despite the world falling away, God’s truth, justice and love will always prevail.
We may have reached the end of the Church’s year, but we are about to begin the journey of waiting. The anticipation of waiting and the expectation of waiting lie in Advent. We will be in darkness, but at his coming, his birth, a new beginning will begin and we will be covered in his glorious light that will shine on and in us for as long as we believe in Christ. We will enter the summer of the fig tree.
But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. The Day and Hour Unknown But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.