It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress – so we heard today in our first reading from the Book of Daniel. These last few months in our country has once again been stained by senseless mass shootings of innocent people gathered in worship in a neighborhood synagogue in Pittsburg or enjoying country western dancing in Thousand Oaks, California. In a horrifying instant, lives were snuffed out by the madness of gun violence that has become a pandemic in our country. How difficult for any of us not to be utterly disgusted when we confront so brutally the face of evil in our world.
My sisters and brothers as we gather in the wake of these recent tragedies and as we draw close to the end of our Liturgical Year, we once again providentially hear God’s word calling us to be prepared for the end times. There will always be those who see the catastrophic finality of the world as we know it lurking around every corner. Yet, there is no whitewashing of God’s word in denial. Our lives and this world will indeed have a finality. For those who suffered death in these recent tragedies, the end came all too soon and unexpected. This biblical and doctrinal truth of our faith can indeed be the fuel that feeds endless anxiety and despair. Yet, for the faithful Christian, for those attuned to the breadth of God’s saving message in his revealed word, this truth should not be the occasion for despair but rather, as paradoxical as it may sound, a hopethat is rooted in the one whom we gratefully call Lord and Savior of the world.
"But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
St. Mark wisely sets before us the words of Jesus reminding us that our task as Christians living in a world that awaits future glory is to not waste time in idle speculation as to when the end will come. Each day that God gives us is a gift to be lived fully and faithfully in His loving service. Our real preparation for the life of glory – to which all of us are destined by God’s loving will – is to live the present moment with deep and abiding faith, unfailing hope and generous love.
Some of you might say, “Well, Father, that’s easy for you to say, but I am woefully conscious of the many moral compromises in my life, I see my failures, my sins, as King David said, are before me always.” It is when we find ourselves burdened by such darkness that we need to take heart by the words of the author to the Hebrews this day:
For by one offering
He – Jesus - has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.
My friends, it is Jesus who is indeed Savior of the world. It is Jesus whose sacrificial life, death and resurrection has ‘consecrated’ each one of us for eternal glory with him. No wonder, then, that with St. Paul, all of us can proclaim, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 55:55-57).