Sunday, Nov. 18, is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32.
After another long day of back-and-forth with the Pharisees, the disciples leaving the Jerusalem Temple with Jesus marvel at the magnificence of the building. When they remark to him about its grandeur, Jesus makes a shocking statement: It will all be destroyed (Mark 13:2).
But when? Later, four disciples press further about the timeframe of this coming horror. No doubt they were dumbfounded by his answer: This will happen in their own generation. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches about “those days” after the coming tribulation, days of a darkened sun and a dull moon, falling stars, shaken heavens. And it will be quite a tribulation; the imminent destruction of the Temple would also mean the massacre of a million Jews during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives as he speaks, looking out on the Temple. His heart must have been wrenched at the thought of such horrors. This event, brought about because of the rejection of their Messiah by the Jews, would definitively close the chapter of the Old Covenant, and it would be the final end of animal sacrifice, fulfilled in the one perfect sacrifice of the cross. The second reading states that Christ, the new Temple, “offered one sacrifice for sins and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool” (Hebrews 10:13).
As we prepare to close the liturgical year, the Church is asking us to remember that we are now in the final days: the days of the New Covenant. However long this era lasts, it will only end with the Second Coming and Final Judgment.
“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).
Still, we are given signs, and if we are wise, we will consider them and “learn a lesson from the fig tree” (Mark 13:28), as Christ points out. Wars, disasters, tribulations, attacks on marriage and family — all of this has been foretold. We don’t have to look far to see this playing out.
All of these signs of the times should give us a certain sense of urgency. Whether the Final Judgment will come before our individual judgment or not, the fact remains: Our time is limited. All we need to know is that each instant marches onward toward God’s fulfillment, gaining momentum as it goes. And so must we.
The Second Coming is suspended as we await the conversion of souls to Christ; and so, first, we must continually re-establish the Kingdom in our own hearts. How? With constant prayer, frequent sacraments and daily sacrifices, as we lay our lives down again and again, subjecting everything within us to his authority and to his mercy.
We also proclaim the Gospel in word and deed, making the message of Christ irresistible by our joyful witness. Empowered with the Holy Spirit, we rejoice that he has given us the mission of cooperating with him in the restoration of the world. We pray and fast for these conversions and also for the Church as a whole, for “before Christ’s second coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 675).
Finally, we always hope. The war is won, the victory promised. As we see things roll toward their fulfillment, we never take our eyes off the promise of the eternal kingdom. And thus, the scene is set for next week as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.