The End of Time

15 November 2009: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Daniel 12, 1-3. Psalm 16. Hebrew 10, 11-18. Mark 13, 24-32

Note: This article appears on Sambuhay today, 15 Nov 2009. Sambuhay is a publication of the Society of St. Paul.

As the feast of Christ the King draws near, marking the end of the liturgical year, we hear passages from Scriptures about the end of time. This we have been fascinated. Every turn of the century, every strike of a disastrous event, or the advent of war, we hear predictions of the end of the world. In faith, we call it the second coming of Christ, or the parousia. So, today, I would suggest that we face this difficult passage squarely, so that we can understand what it means more fully.

First, Jesus used images of his time; images Jews knew fully well. The book of Ezra in the Old Testament tells us that the coming of the Lord will be preceded by a time of war, earthquakes, rebellion, scheming of nations, and the confusion of leaders (4 Ezra). An oracle called the Sybelline Oracle and the 2nd Book of Baruch (27, 5-13) says the same thing: “And it shall come to pass that whoever comes safe out of the war shall die in the earthquake, and whosoever gets safe out of the earthquake shall be burned by the fire, and whosoever gets safe out of the first shall be destroyed by famine.” Moreover, the prophets Amos, Joel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Ezra, and Baruch added that the coming the Lord will be preceded by the darkening of the sun and the moon.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus predicted certain signs of war, famine, and strife. We know from history that the Roman Empire was plagued by war. He predicted the Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He prophesied about earthquakes, and forty years after, an earthquake devastated Laodicaea and the eruption of Vesuvius buried Pompeii in lava. There were famines in the time of the Emperor Claudius. Tacitus, the famous historian, preserves the memory of these disasters. And even after these predicts, Jesus did not come for the second time. The present age experience various wars, from World War I and II, to Iraq, and various local conflicts within nations, but there was no second coming of Jesus.

But the Gospel tells us of a permanent truth: that He will come. When? Even Jesus during his time did not know. He said, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And therefore, even Jesus is saying that there are many things in our lives that do not have answers; that should be left without question in the hand of God. Thus, no one has the credibility to work out dates or predict the end of time.

Second, if no one knows when He will come, what’s next? If the basic truth that the Lord teaches us is that our lives are in the light of eternity, then it tells us many things. In the Old Testament, the Jews believed that the end of the world will be marked by a gathering of all who were scattered. The Testament of Asher (7, 5-7) tells us, “The Lord will gather you together in faith through His tender mercy, and for the sake of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.” Thus, the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God is the time when we all gather as one body. It is a work of unity. The Kingdom of God is a like a banquet, when all are gathered around the Lord.

The floor of the University of the Philippines’ circular Church should remind us of our goal. When National Artist for the Visual Arts, Arturo Luz made the River of Life flowing in and out of the altar, he has made the statement that in the end, wherever we are, whoever we are — students, university personnel, alumni, parishioners, even those who do not live in UP but come to mass there—- we are to be gathered around the Lord. And that our lives, must also flow out from this gathering around the altar, to our daily lives.

When we come from our busy days to celebrate anniversaries, we gather in order to be renewed. When Jesus comes to our daily life, we become whole. Nabubuo tayo uli. Kung, sabog-na-sabog at litong-lito ang isip bago pumunta sa simbahan, nalulunasan ang ating pagkakalat pagkatapos manalangin.

And therefore, when we come to think of the end of days, we come to celebrate unity. We come to gather. We gather because the Lord promised that when we celebrate community, He will come. You can think even, that if you want to taste the end of time, come to mass, come to Jesus, and you will live forever.

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