ENDINGS ARE BEGINNINGS


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
November 18, 2012

Readings: Dn 12:1-3 / Heb 10:11-14,18 / Mk 11: 24-32


ENDINGS ARE BEGINNINGS


I would like to sum up my reflection for today with a paraphrase from the great English poet, T.S. Eliot … "in my end is my beginning." Yes … endings are indeed, beginnings. As November marches on, as the weather changes in some way all over the world, and as the warm expectations of Christmas fill our hearts and minds, thoughts of an old year receding, and a new one in the offing, also capture our imagination.


If we are to make the big mistake of interpreting today's apocalyptic gospel passages literally (as the Fundamentalists invariably do), the warm feelings of Christmas could easily be replaced by fear, trepidation, and listlessness. But any student of introductory Biblical hermeneutics would know that sowing fear and hopelessness is not the meaning, scope, intent, and purpose of such an "apocalyptic" – if, at first blush, frightful – language. On the contrary, the whole apocalyptic style refers to a coming fulfillment of God's promises of old given through the prophets, and the centerpiece, the object, the focus of such fulfillment is to happen in and through the so-called "Christ event" – the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.


We hear this Jesus today, come in time, come in flesh, come in history, tell us: "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky."


There is certainty in this type of language … certainty not in terms of the 'how' but in terms of the what. The 'how' of it all is not the point, but the 'what.' But what is this all about? It all has to do with the fulfillment of what was promised of old. The Lord is coming. The Lord is coming at the "end of time" to bring to fruition the saving work and mercy of God "who has come to save His people" in and through Christ. That fulfillment has begun in the Jesus of history, the very same one who speaks to his bewildered disciples who could not, and did not fully understand all at once what was unfolding before their very eyes.


We are no different now from the uncomprehending disciples then. We still do not understand and see fully. We are beset then and now with so much uncertainty, so many doubts, and so many questions. Will there be another terrorist attack anywhere in this big wide world, made small by so much hatred and strife? Will there be a new wave of nuclear terrorism, played out by new players in the geopolitical scene? Will the changing political landscape in the world powers all over spell doom and gloom for the rest of the developing world? Will the forces of globalization truly solve the gross inequalities that beset and besot the world filled with so much injustice and all forms of imbalances and inequities?


But no … let me take back my word. On the basis of what we hear today, on the basis of what we celebrate in the liturgy today, yes, we are very different now from the disciples then. We are better off now than then. For we see a little more clearly. We see now, "through a glass darkly," as St. Paul puts it, but we do see more … much more.


What then do we see, and how do we see what we see?


To be sure, we see the same threats that Daniel and the other prophets saw. We see the same destruction, the same inequality and injustice. We see the same sinfulness of the world … of people … of ourselves. We see exactly the same SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) in this finite world hankering for fulfillment and perfection.


But we do see much more. We see much more on account of what we, as Christians, have been gifted a lot more with. Like Daniel the prophet, we have better eyes with which to look at things, at events, at people, and everything else in this imperfect world. And together with Daniel, we are able to say today: "At that time, there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time." But here comes the clincher … are you ready for it? Daniel sees much more than distress. "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, other shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace."


This, much like the words of Jesus in the Gospel passage, is not the language of terror, trials, and tribulations. It has nothing to do with suns being darkened, moons not giving its customary light, and stars falling down from the firmament. No … on the contrary it has to do with a vision, a way of looking at things, a manner of seeing now through a glass darkly, but seeing all the same.


This, my dear friends, has to do with seeing. This has to do with looking through the eyes of hope. Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Paul, and Jesus … they all looked at things and events through the eyes of hope.


The world, assuredly, is no different now, from then. We are beset with the same worries, the same challenges, the same threats, and the same blockages that come from our human sinful nature now, as then.


But the very reason why we are gathered here together today to celebrate is because we see much more than just this. We see much more than cataclysmic events befalling sinful humanity. We see signs of the savior at work in this sinful world. We see vestiges of God's future and present glory beyond what takes place, beyond what happens. Looking through the eyes of hope, we see visions; we dream dreams; and we conjure up a world of possibilities far beyond what our sinful nature can ever do. For we now have one high priest who "took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool." (2nd Reading)


This, in simple terms, is what today's good news is all about. It has to do with hope. At a time when everything seems to smack of cataclysmic endings, when we are threatened more than ever by gross, massive, and catastrophic destruction on all fronts, whether military, ecological, psychological, geographical, or geological (what with so many threats of natural calamities like earthquakes, typhoons, or volcanic eruptions), today's liturgy puts us right back on track, right back to the paths of hope. We are led right back to the beginning – a beginning that ought to convince everyone that beyond all the bad news, stands the font of all good news. God is alive. God is in charge. And He directs the course of history. The Jesus of history is the same as the Christ of faith. In and through this same Christ, we now see more clearly than ever: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."


Still afraid of cataclysmic endings? … of things happening beyond our control? …. Take heart … Today's good news remind us … endings are beginnings … for those who see … for those who have vision … of Him to whom we cry out together in faith and hope: "You are my inheritance, O Lord!" (Responsorial Psalm).


"Father in heaven, from the beginning of time you promised man salvation through the future coming of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to drink of his truth and expand our hearts with the joy of his promises, so that we may serve you in faith and love and know forever the joy of your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord" (Alternative Opening Prayer from the old English Roman Missal).



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