33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Maggie Hanley
I recall being terrified as a child by any thought or mention of Jesus’ second coming, and much of the language coming out of Revelation. It was too big—often dark, too abstract—somewhat terrifying. I couldn’t help but get swept up in the great unknown of it. Even today I struggle with it, and Mark’s use of “tribulation,” sun “darkened,” moon not showing its “light,” stars “falling from the sky.” It catches my breath.
It is an ending we have been told, read, and promised. Christ’s triumphant return, “coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory.” It will be an ending to this life as we know it. But we are promised that what awaits us on the other side will be more amazing than we could ever imagine, more wonderful than life as we know it.
A week ago Monday, my daughter, Lucy, was sitting at the kitchen counter eating breakfast. “Why do we all have to die?” she asked nonchalantly. In my early morning fog, I remember spitting something out about beginnings and endings, life cycles, and living with Jesus and those who have gone before us. It wasn’t eloquent, or well put together, but it’s all I could muster up at 5:45 a.m. (thank you Daylight Savings). We do try to speak about passing in a way that’s open and hopeful, but she isn’t yet old enough to comprehend the intense feelings surrounding separation from those we love, and the unknown of life beyond. As I read this Gospel, I realized perhaps my fear in facing Jesus’ second coming stemmed from the unknown, and a desire to separate from the intensity I imagine would be present in the days leading up to his return. A passing from this life that we know. A longing to not have to work through the pain, trials, and tribulations that would come before the Peace. A fear of the unknown and heartache that would come before the Glory.
But, on the other side, what would it be like to be called by Jesus as his elect? Can you imagine what that experience would be like? I delight at the thought of Jesus sending out his angels and gathering his elect—I want to be included in that crowd! Heartache will come before we meet Jesus at his second coming, but he is our hope in living through the tribulations. We are called to look to Jesus—stay close—live a life in line with his way; we are promised that we will endure the heartache and tribulation before reaching the other side. Let us not focus on the pain and trials we must endure before Jesus’ second coming, but rather know they are roadblocks before we can delight in a life complete with him. An ending marked with trials before a beginning of total peace. Jesus is our hope.