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Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time B: November 14, 2021

Mark 13: 24-32

By Rev. John Tran

The gospel from Mark today is a very serious reading; one that catches our attention, even if we really do not want to hear it. It paints a very upsetting picture. We do not want to think of the end of our world, even if it means that Jesus returns among us. And that is very different from the feelings of those who knew him in this world. They longed to see Jesus again. And yet, even for us, the message is one of great comfort. When Jesus comes, he and his words to us will not pass away; Jesus will still be the same comfort for us as he is now, even more so. Jesus says that he will stand by us and with us even as the world passes away. Now that is great reassurance.

Jesus tells us to notice the signs of his coming, just as we would notice how a fig tree grows and tells us the season of the year that is coming. But he also tells us that no one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ coming except the Father alone. In effect then, we must always be ready for Jesus coming again among us for the final time. He is always coming among us even as we hear these words. He comes in the gospel, in the Eucharist and other sacraments, he comes in the friend and stranger who is among us now.

What we must not do, is to think of Jesus’ coming only as some extreme event. We need to live just as if he is here now, which is what he us. In a few weeks we will begin the season of Advent; in Advent we concentrate every day on the fact that Jesus came to us on earth in history; he comes in word and sacrament; and he will come at the end time to claim all that is his own. Now that is a comfort!

But instead of running this way and that, trying to see if this indeed is the end time, what we really need to do is to live quietly in his love, and live his love every day. St. John of the Cross put it so well: “At the end of our life, we shall be judged by charity...God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human successes, but rather on how much we have loved.”

The leader of a certain Indian tribe was dying, so he summoned his three sons and said: “I am dying; before my death, I must choose one of you to succeed me as the head of our tribe. I have the same task for each of you. I want you to climb our holy mountain and bring me back something beautiful. The one whose gift is most outstanding will be the one who will succeed me.” The following morning the sons set out on their search, each taking a different path up the mountain.

After several days the sons returned. The first brought his father a beautiful and rare flower that grew near the summit of the mountain. The second son brought his father a valuable stone, round and colorful which had been polished by the wind and the rain. The third son, who came empty handed, said to his father: “I have brought back nothing to show you father. As I stood on the top of the holy mountain, I saw that on the other side was a beautiful land filled with green pastures. In the middle of these pastures is a crystal lake. I have a vision of where our tribe could go for a better life. I was so overwhelmed by what I saw, by what I could see, and the love of our people, that I could not bring anything back.” The father replied: “You shall be our tribe’s new leader, for you have brought back the most precious thing – the gift of a vision for a better future.”

Today’s Gospel on the end time warnings gives us a better vision of how to lead our lives and how to look forward to, and long for, that beautiful future. It is our love of being with Jesus and his brother and sisters, that draws us forward with joy.

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