November 18, 2018
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
Some Christians use a passage like this one in Mark’s gospel to predict the end of time. But that is not what this Scripture passage is about. In fact, Jesus in Mark’s Gospel even humbly states no one knows the day nor the hour, only the Father. So it is a waste of time looking for signs to predict the end time.
Rather this poetic, symbolic passage is a message of hope to Mark’s Christian community in Rome who are struggling to believe in God’s goodness while undergoing great trials. They feel as if their world is ending because of the terrible persecution they are suffering at the hands of the Roman Empire. So Mark shares the message of Jesus that even when you feel like you are walking in darkness—as if the sun and the moon and the stars have lost their light— that God still reigns, that God will save his faithful people.
It would do us well to remember where this powerful teaching by Jesus is located in the context of Mark’s Gospel— immediately before he enters into his passion and death. Jesus is on his way to the cross where he will enter the chaos and the darkness of human existence, plunge into suffering and loneliness, and transform it by his self-giving love.
Jesus wants us to remember, as those first Christians Mark addressed in Rome were challenged to recall, the truth of how God works and where God dwells. Not in someplace removed from the trials and tribulations of our world, but here in this world in the midst of senseless death, God is found. Not distant and far away, but here in the center of hopeless chaos and injustice, God is found. Not in some heaven far away from our struggle of feeling abandoned and all alone, but in the moment of total loneliness, God is found. God is not changing any of these painful experiences nor taking them away, but by simply being present in them, changing the people who experience them. The God of Jesus Christ is not a magician who waves his magic wand and all suffering—poof, disappears. The God who Jesus Christ reveals is a Passionate Lover who goes with us into the darkest place and most painful moment of our life to transform us by his Light and His Love.
Acknowledging the presence of Jesus with us by the power of His Spirit, we are daily transformed to live each day in hope and to bring others to the One who is the Source of our hope. Faith gives us the eyes to see that tribulation and trial can be birth pangs in the hands of a midwife God bringing about a further flowering of His kingdom in and through us. For we know, having journeyed this year with the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel, that he is present with us in suffering, that we are never alone even there, especially there.
Many people are tempted to believe that in the midst of suffering and trial God is not present, that God has abandoned them. Mark’s Jesus teaches us otherwise. That despite appearances, God still rules the world, and His Son, who suffered out of love for us is present with us in our suffering. That despite what things appear to be, God still reigns, and His Son who died out of love for us can transform every death into new life. Faith gives us the ability to see clearly, to focus on what is important, to enable us to notice where God is at work, even in darkness and difficulty.
So that instead of being swallowed by despair, we can grow in hope. So that instead of responding to hatred with hatred, we can respond with love. So that instead of responding to violence with more violence, we can overcome evil with good. So that instead of being tortured by doubt, we can rest in the peace of faith.
Then we notice the life-giving signs of God’s kingdom blooming in our midst.
Such as the 7 adults desiring to join our community of faith who went through the Rite of Acceptance at the 5 p.m. Mass this Saturday. They see signs of the Kingdom of God here, in our midst, and want to be a part of it. And they, too, become signs to us of the in-breaking of God’s reign.
The parents who present their children for baptism at the Sunday Masses also notice signs of the Kingdom of God here, so they trust that we will help them raise their child in the faith.
Even though the signs of the Kingdom be as small as a leaf budding from a tree at the end of winter, they are there.
By the bright, shining virtue of hope we have eyes to see the fruits of the Spirit coming to life all around us in the goodness and generosity of others.