33rd Sunday of Ordinary time/Bible Sunday (18 November 2018)
Dan 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14,18; Mark 13:24-32
From the moment we are born, we begin a march towards that moment when we will meet our Maker. Whether it is the end of our lives or the end of the ages, there will come a moment when we stand before God and answer for the choices we have made. How will we fare? On what will we stand or fall? Do we greet these thoughts with fear or with hope? These are the questions we face in the readings this week.
The first reading is taken from the book of the prophet, Daniel, whose vision is situated at the end of time. We are told that before the end of time, there will be unparalleled distress but Michael the archangel will rise and stand guard over all the people. In the face of such suffering, those whose names are written in the Book have the assurance of God’s promise, that they will be rescued. All will be judged at the fork at which everlasting life and everlasting disgrace part company. The wise, blessed with insight and who in turn have led others to righteousness, will be led to everlasting life in heaven; the foolish to that eternal emptiness, separated from God.
Jesus speaks in even more explicit terms in the Gospel reading. He speaks of His own return to His creation at the end times after a period of great tribulation when the powers in heaven will be shaken. But He will emerge victorious in this, coming in glory and dispatching His angels to gather His chosen from all corners of the world. Jesus tells us that we can sense the time coming when we see the signs of the times though we can never know just when it will be.
The vision of the Victorious Jesus coming on the clouds sending His angels to gather His chosen is an uplifting one for those who believe in and claim His redemptive work of salvation. It is a source of great assurance that He in whom we place our trust will triumph. But on what basis do we share in the fruits of His victory? On what can we rest our hope that our names will be among those found in the Book?
This is answered in the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews. For in Jesus we have a priest like no other; a priest whose sacrifice alone is efficacious to take away our sins and make us righteous before God, because it was His own perfect life that was given in atonement. The sacrifices of the blood of the bulls could never take away the sins of fallen humanity but God Himself provided us the way to life at the cost of His Son on the Cross. And because He has won for us the gift of forgiveness and life, there is no longer any sin when we are presented to God.
The readings offer boundless hope for us who believe Our Saviour died and sacrificed His life so we could live. This was a gift obtained at incalculable cost. The image of a saviour nailed to a cross is folly in the eyes of many and at the human level seems to fly in the face of the first reading that it is the wise who will be led to heaven; but as St Paul reminds us in 1 Cor 1:18-24, it is God’s wisdom we must seek even if that is folly before the world. On what will you stand on the last day?
Some points for reflection as you read the passages:
- Do you ever feel concerned about meeting God on the last day? How does the redemptive work of Jesus affect your personal attitude to standing before God?
- What do you think it means to claim the work of Christ? Is it a question of a mental assent to the idea that He died for you or is it something else?
- How could you more meaningfully claim the work of Jesus in your life? How might it transform your outlook on life, relationships and values to do this?