Today is the next to last Sunday in Ordinary Time. We’ll celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King next Sunday, and today’s readings remind us how close that is. The liturgical year symbolizes the entire work of redemption throughout history, and that work is about to be concluded so that the year can start anew with the First Sunday of Advent. Next Sunday we celebrate the moment of the work of redemption where Christ becomes all in all, as St. Paul would say. It’ll be the day in which the Christian prayer “Thy Kingdom Come!” is completely answered: the Second Coming of Christ. This Sunday is an opportunity to examine how we get ready for the end of the liturgical year and the end of the world as we know it.
Today’s First Reading reminds us what will happen on that day: the end of the world as we know it. When we hear those words each of us must examine ourselves so see what they mean to us. They probably fill us with fear, but they should fill us with hope too. Daniel’s prophecy speaks of a great distress in the world, but also the help of St. Michael the Archangel, the guardian of the Church, just as each of us has a guardian angel, watching over us and helping us in all of life’s trials. Often it seems the end of the world is something sad and distressing, because the world as we know it is about to end. In those moments we must remember the Lord’s promises in the Beatitudes: we’ll have the Kingdom of Heaven, justice, consolation, and mercy. The Beatitudes will fill us with hope, if we strive to live them, because we know Our Lord always keeps his promises.
Today’s Second Reading reminds us that Christ himself, by becoming a sacrifice, has performed a perfect sacrifice that bring us forgiveness and will continue to bring us forgiveness. Our Lord has already won the war against sin and death. Our trials in life are the last battles of a conquest the Lord has already achieved. Now soul after soul are won over until the end of time when “his enemies are made his footstool”: until the forces of evil are definitively defeated. Our Lord’s victory should fill us with hope, because one day neither sin nor death will threaten us ever again.
Today’s Gospel reminds us we won’t know when Christ will return in glory, but also to be vigilant. It’s hard to envision the return, but Our Lord today does describe some of its elements. It won’t just be one tribulation. After the “tribulation” there will be darkness and upheaval. Then the Son of Man will return in glory and his angels will go and gather his elect from everywhere. He’ll leave no one behind who has persevered as his disciple. He encourages us not only to be vigilant, but to be perseverant. When this tribulation and upheaval occur he will be close, right at your “gate.” We don’t know when this’ll start or when it’ll end. This Gospel is one of the few times Our Lord says plainly that the Father is not revealing that information. In contemplating the end of the world let’s be vigilant, because a little healthy concern keeps us on our toes, but also full of hope, because even though there’ll be these final battles Jesus has already won the war.
Readings: Daniel 12:1–3; Psalm 16:5, 8–11; Hebrews 10:11–14, 18; Mark 13:24–32. See also 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.