In today’s Gospel Our Lord invites the disciples to read the signs of the seasons, not just the signs of the times, to know that the Kingdom of God is near. In describing the signs of summer drawing near he is directing our attention to spring: a period after a long season of cold and apparent death followed by new life starting to bloom. In this contrast between spring and summer Our Lord is teaching us about one of the characteristics of the end times, described by some theologians as “now and not yet.”
The Kingdom of God is established “now”: it was near, and those who believed in Jesus and his preaching became the first signs in the world of that Kingdom, and he entrusted his disciples with the mission of continuing to announce that it was near. All disciples of Jesus are signs and members of the Kingdom of God. The springtime of new life starting to bloom has come with our baptism and Christian life. Saint John Paul II expressed the desire that the third millennium be a “new springtime” for Christianity. The time of the Church, until Our Lord’s return in glory, is that springtime.
At the same time, the Kingdom of God is “not yet” complete. It cannot be until every person throughout history has had an opportunity to welcome it or reject it, and that won’t happen until the end of time. The Kingdom of God is “not yet” a complete conquest and exile of all the evil influences in the world; that will come at the end of time with the Last Judgment. The Kingdom is “now” and “not yet”: let’s live our faith as a spring with an eager anticipation of the beautiful summer to come for those who welcome it.
Readings: Daniel 7:2–14; Daniel 3:75–81; Luke 21:29–33.