The Word this week

The Word this week

The 33rd Sunday of the Year
Daniel 12:1-13; Hebrews 10:11-14 & 18; Mark 13:24-32 (Year B)

“At that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who mounts guard over his people. There is going to be a time of great distress unparalleled since the nations first came into existence. When that time comes, your own people will be spared, those whose names are written in the Book.”

The Book of Daniel was written in the closing centuries immediately preceding the birth of Christ. It was a period of unparalleled upheaval as the superpowers of the Mediterranean world fought for supremacy. In this turmoil Israel must have felt herself as no more than a grain of sand blown in the wind. It brought about a new world order that demanded conformity. Consequently, Israel’s ancient faith, refusing to conform to a godless world, was subjected to bitter persecution.

The Book of Daniel, with its images of bizarre beasts locked in cosmic conflict, sought to express what cannot be put into words: the fears and vulnerability of sinful humanity. Every generation, especially in times of trial, must face its own greatest fears and worst nightmares. This Daniel did with the assurance that God, through Michael the Archangel, would safeguard his people in the coming trial. The faithful who had faced a time of great distress would, at the coming judgment, be raised to eternal life.

The Book of Daniel is also a call to repentance. In prayer Daniel confessed both his own sin and that of the people, acknowledging that such sin was the cause of the approaching chaos. In every generation the Church and its faithful must have the humility to face their own sinfulness. Not to do so is to be overwhelmed by the chaos that sin generates.

As the Church’s liturgical year approaches its conclusion, we are reminded that the time for repentance is not infinite: “In those days the sun will be darkened, the moon lose its brightness and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather the chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.”

The words of Jesus, echoing the visions of the prophet Daniel, are both a reassurance and a challenge. They are a reassurance because they assert that God’s kingdom of love and peace, sown in the hearts of the faithful, will triumph over the greatest distress. They are a challenge because they call to repentance all that is unredeemed within us.

“But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, only the Father.”