A reflection on today's readings...
War in Iraq, global warming and climate change, nuclear testing, earthquakes and tsunamis….the end is nigh!!
As we look around our world, as we watch the news, we are bombarded by signs of impending doom. We can be overwhelmed by what is happening around us.
There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. (Dan 12:1)
This Sunday our readings are apocalyptic, evoking the chaos and fear of the end times and revealing in the midst our God calling us to be faithful and speaking to us of hope and love.
But at that time your people shall be delivered (Dan12:1)
In Daniel 12:1-3 is a beautiful conclusion following chapters 10 and 11 where in the face of great oppression and persecution, war and violence God speaks to Daniel in his fear and urges him not to be afraid amongst the suffering, bad things will happen to good people yet in the end justice will be done and the faithful saved. And so:
"At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever."
In response to this we sing a beautiful psalm:
For you are my God, you alone are my joy, defend me O Lord
We sing of our trust in our God who will not abandon us to the perils of this world. When we follow God, when we take on our mission all will not go smoothly. And we have this reiterated in the story Jesus as Mark in 13:24-32 prepares the reader for the climax of the gospel story: the passion of Jesus.
Earlier in this chapter Mark shows Jesus sitting with a few of his faithful friends opposite the temple: Peter, James, John and Andrew. The apposition is intentional. In this conversation Jesus says:
"Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs." (Mk 13:5-8)
And Jesus goes on to unfold what suffering will be endured by the community in pursuit of the mission: it is suffering of the kind of Jesus rejection, trial and death. Living the gospel is counter cultural. It was then and it is now. Sometimes we forget that we follow someone that we depict as hanging on a cross. Sometimes we wonder why this is happening to us? Yet this story of suffering also brings a story of triumph.
Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mar 13:26-7)
It is not just the story of Jesus fate. It is the story of Marks communitys struggle with death and it is our story of struggle with death, our passion as we live out our lives.
Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mk 13:30-32)
Sometimes the struggles of our lives feel as large as the wars of the world. In the midst of our struggle is our God embracing us in hope.
Rosemary Canavan lives in Adelaide. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts major in Psychology and two Bachelors degrees in Theology, the most recent an Honours degree in New Testament studies. She has two adult children.
©2006 Rosemary Canavan