November 12, 2015
Father Charles Puthota
Years ago a popular bumper sticker read: “Stop the world! I want to get off!” It reflected the frustration, anger, and helplessness at the insanity in the world. Aren’t we too at times exasperated by the world and national events?
After the world wars, we lived under the threat of a nuclear holocaust. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict involving only about 13 million people has brought sadness to the world’s over 7,000 million people for decades. The menace from fundamentalist militants and dictators has spawned violence, terror, and wars, displacing millions of people from their homelands. What crimes are being committed in the name of God! The immigrant crisis in Europe is unprecedented. The failed states like Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan have generated unimaginable heartbreak and tragedy. Not to mention other disasters like hunger, poverty, disease, injustice, gun violence, greed, and environmental degradation. What is happening to this world, our common home?
The grim list of the global ills might well be part of the apocalyptic events described in the word of God this Sunday. Poised on the penultimate Sunday of the liturgical year, as we face the feast of Christ the King next Sunday, the church invites us to reflect on the end things with abiding faith and robust hope.
The world’s current tribulations may seem that we are doomed forever, but God is ready to flash a rainbow of new life and beauty as he did for Noah after the deluge. God will not abandon us. He will recreate the world that has been brought to ruin by our horrible choices. There will be peace and harmony. Justice and integrity will reign. Evil will not triumph. There will be goodness and gladness again in the world that God loves so much that he gave his only son.
Written during persecution in Babylonian exile, the Book of Daniel speaks of “a time unsurpassed in distress,” but God’s “people shall escape.” God’s prince Michael will protect them. Amidst such turmoil, there appears the flowering of the belief in immortality and resurrection, a rare Old Testament expression: “Many of those who sleep in the dust … shall awake.” Even the dead will not perish. There is afterlife. God will triumph. His people, living and dead, will be victorious. The hope of resurrection strikes a chord in us this month of November as we honor the faithful departed and accompany them in love and prayer.
The cataclysmic events described by Jesus in the Gospel will lead to his second coming. At his coming, there will be not only judgment but also peace and justice. The apocalyptic discourse hints at the persecution the Christian community suffered at the time Mark was writing the Gospel. They could be anchored in Jesus because his “words will not pass away.” In the passage following today’s reading, Jesus asks us to be watchful servants waiting for the master. While we are filled with hope and reassurance as we face the slings and arrows of life, Jesus wants us to do our housekeeping. Today’s tasks and responsibilities matter. Albert Camus says: “I shall tell you a secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.”
The hope we seek is brilliantly brought out in the letter to the Hebrews. Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice of himself has redemptive power on cosmic, cataclysmic, apocalyptic events, events we might experience in some measure in our own lives and times. Jesus’ death and resurrection has brought us new life, and ultimately, our immortality. No worries! Let’s walk with Jesus and talk with him. By becoming his disciples and apostles, we can make sense of our human existence and cosmic destiny.
Father Puthota is pastor of St. Veronica Parish, South San Francisco.