♫“Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign, Blockin’ Out the Devil, Freein’ My Mind. Do This, Don’t Do That, Can’t You Read the Sign?!”♫ – Mark 13:24-32†


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Quote of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

A friend wrote something he believes the Holy Spirit told him to write down.  I found it very moving, and would love to share this beautiful piece of work with you:

A Conversation with God

By Gene Eller

One day I started to pray, “Please Lord, can you help me, I’m so angry?”

The Lord said, “What do you have to be angry about?”

I alleged, “Lord, this guy over there has an important job.  He’s in charge of a lot of people.”

The Lord come back with, “Did I not provide you a job?”

I said, “Yes, but Lord, he owns a big house with a lot of rooms and I rent this tiny house with very few rooms.”

The Lord said back to me, “Did I not provide you with a roof over your head and a place to sleep, for you AND your family?”

Again, I replied, “Yes, you did.”  I then said to the Lord, “He has lots of money and I have so little.”

The Lord answered, “Did I not provide him with enough money so that he can help the poor?”

Again, I could only answer, “Yes, I suppose so; but Lord I and my family barely have enough food to eat.”

The Lord then asked, “Didn’t I provide you with enough food so you would NOT go hungry?”

I said, “Yes, you did.”  Then the Lord asked me, “With all that I have provided you, how can you be so angry?”

I sheepishly whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”  He countered with, “I did, but you did not listen to me!”

We all need to stop, ask the Lord if we have not heard Him, and then, LISTEN!!

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Next week, I will be discussing the “five stages of religious persecution” which I learned from an on-line article written by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdioceses of Washington.  The subject matter is directly related to the importance of our Catholic Faith TODAY!!  The author highlights the direct effect of the HHS mandate on religious freedom, specifically impacting the Catholic faithful and the Church itself.  He also highlighted his perception of a greater degree of indifference on the part of many Catholics, in particular, those serving in public office.    

With this not so subtle – – in fact, overt – – inconsistency and public deviation from foundational Catholic Doctrine concerning life, marriage, and religious liberty, I am inspired to recommend to you, all my readers, the following three prayers given to us from the “Guardian Angel of Portugal” who appeared to the three children of Fatima in October 1916.  The angel prayed and taught these prayers to the children who learned to pray them daily:

The Pardon Prayer:

“My God, I believe, I adore, I trust and I love you!  I ask forgiveness for all those that do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love you.”

The Angel’s Prayer:

“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly.  I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

The Eucharistic Prayer:

“Most Holy Trinity, I adore you!  My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Please say these Prayers on a daily basis.

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  Quote of the Day:

“The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They simply are the ones who care the most.” ~ Charlie Schulz (is alledged author, but Scopes says author is unknown)

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.  Hey, what’s YOUR sign?

(NAB Mark 13:24-32)  24 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 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.  28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

We are nearing the end of this liturgical year in the Catholic Church.  Today is the second to last Sunday prior to the start of the new Church year which is the beginning of the Advent Season, that of expectation and preparation for the coming infant “Messiah”.  So, as we approach the end of the Church year, our Gospel is inviting each of us to consider Jesus’ foretelling “predictions” and teachings about the end of the world – – as we know it.  Jesus’ “Words” about the “end times” are spoken to prepare His disciples for His passion and death in Jerusalem at the time of Passover (but they do not know the time of His passion and death yet).

Before we consider Jesus’ “Words”, it is important to note the reason Mark writes his Gospel, the political backdrop in which it is written.  It is strongly believed that Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians living in or near Rome about 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus on the Holy Cross (circa, 60-75 A.D.).  This was a time of political turmoil in Rome and throughout the Middle-east.  At this time Christians in the area were experiencing persecution by the Romans.  Jewish revolutionaries, in response to this persecution on their people and their religious beliefs, rebelled against the Romans.  In response to their attacks, the Romans completely destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., murdering a major portion of the Jewish leaders and populace.  Many in Mark’s community of believers, during this time of political turmoil and persecution, most certainly wondered if the “end times” envisioned by Jesus were quite near to coming to fruition.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ observation about the contributions being made to the Temple treasury.  Jesus commented on the example of sacrificial giving, inspired by her total trust that God would protect and provide, which He saw in the poor widow’s offering (cf., Mark 12:38-44).  Placed between last week’s reading at Mass and this week’s reading at Mass is Jesus’ prophesy of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, His teaching about the costs of discipleship, and the “woes” that will accompany the “end times”.  In a warning to His followers, and to balance the potential despair implied in His prophecy, both then and now today, Jesus offers hope by instructing His disciples for the need of watchfulness so that they will not be caught unprepared for this final day of judgment – – the Parousia – – His Second Appearing.

In this rather abstractly-bizarre discourse about the coming of the “Son of Man”, Jesus is referring to specific “Words” (and images connecting words) found in their most sacred of Jewish religious Scriptures, the “Torah”, the first five books of today’s Old Testament:

The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; The sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10);

When I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken all its stars” (Ezekiel 32:7);

Before them the earth trembles; the heavens shake; Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness (Joel 2:10).

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The people of Jesus’ time expected that the coming of the Messiah – – “the Son of God” – – would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders which can be anticipated if we watch for the signs.  Signs of wonder and mystery have always revolved around Jesus.  Let’s remember that Jesus’ first coming was “clouded” in mystery and wonderment:

  • A “son of David” was born in a cave at Bethlehem as was prophesied;
  • Magi from “the East”, guided by a star, travelled to worship the newborn king of Israel;
  • He was a miracle-worker who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead,
  • He was a “Suffering Servant” who bore the sins of many upon the Holy Cross, and
  • He IS the Risen Jesus Christ who stormed the gates of Sheol to release its captives.

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied He would return again at the “end of time” (the Parousia) to finish the work He came to accomplish through His death and resurrection.  

Jesus’ image of the “Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” is taken from a foretelling vision of the prophet Daniel:

“As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man.  When He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, His kingship, one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

(Remember now, Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”!).

Daniel’s vision is a foretelling of a royal appointment of a “human” king before God’s throne.  This “human” king, whose authority comes from God the Father, is given world-wide and everlasting kingship, authority, and power.  The faithful Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression.  Jesus, however, tells His disciples that when He returns He will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for ALL – – not just the Jewish “chosen” people.

Jesus goes on, in verse 13:26, saying the following of His return:

The ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory”:

In saying this, Jesus is citing verses from Deuteronomy:

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who rides the heavens in his power, who rides the clouds in his majesty;” (Deuteronomy 33:26).

(* “Jeshuran” is a poetic name for “the people of Israel”, used as a token of affection by the author.  It translates to, “the dear upright people“.  This word is used four times in Holy Scripture: (cf., Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 33:26; and Isaiah 44:2.)

Jesus repeats this text again later, referring to the “Son of Man and riding in the clouds of heaven”, in His response to the question from the high priest, “Are you the Messiah?”:

Again the high priest asked him and said to him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?’  Then Jesus answered, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”’” (Mark 14:61-62).

The word “clouds”, in Jewish Holy Scripture, indicates the presence of the divinity.  Thus, in His nature as the “Son of Man”, Jesus is truly a “heavenly being” who will come in power and glory (as well as being the “human” king).  The image of the “cloud” being “the presence of divinity” is significantly found throughout the story of Moses interaction with “the Lord” during the Jewish exodus in the desert:

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood with him [Moses] there and proclaimed the name, ‘LORD’” (Exodus 34:5);

“[The Lord] said to him [Moses]: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he pleases into the inner sanctuary, inside the veil, in front of the cover on the ark, lest he die, for I reveal myself in a cloud above the ark’s cover (Leviticus 16:2);

and,

The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him.  Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue” (Numbers 11:25).

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Jesus continues His teaching by offering His disciples “signs” to look for, indicating that the “coming of the Son of Man” is near.  His “Words” and its images draw upon similes found in the Torah and other Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament).  

Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the “fig tree”, a parable which teaches that if one knows how to read the “signs”, one can be prepared for the “end times”.  However, Jesus also makes exceedingly clear to His disciples that NO ONE knows when the “end time” will come, EXCEPT God the Father.  

The last verse from today’s Gospel reading is very revelational and significant for me:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 12:32).

This statement seems to counterbalance today’s reading by declaring that the exact time of the Parousia is known only to God the Father; and God the Father IS PURE LOVE!!  The Father IS the architect, designer, and the ultimate cause and effect intended in the Parousia!  This last verse is a warning for the disciples to be ALWAYS (i.e., daily) ready for the Lord’s return, at the Parousia – – the promised Second Coming of Christ.  It is also an acknowledgement of the Final Judgment, the ultimate acknowledgement of God the Father’s love and active participation in this awesome event, the fullest revelation of God sharing His eternal love for each of us. 

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As Catholic Christians, we need to start living as if the Parousia is here now – – as if you see Jesus Christ descending on a “cloud” with the “12 Legions of Angels” surrounding Him NOW!!  How do we prepare for His return?  Here is a set of “To Do’s” taken from a website I found, cited at the end: so,

  • Live holy lives abiding in Christ (1 John2:28) and perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
  • Rejoice in hope knowing that we have a Savior who will certainly appear and all our work for Christ will not be in vain, but abundantly rewarded ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • Be alert to the various deceptions that Satan will launch against the Church in those days (2 Thessalonians 2:8,9; Matthew 24:11).  (These Days!!)
  • Engage in radical simplicity knowing that all our material possessions will be just fuel for the fire on that day (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Peter 3:10-14).
  • Be awake to God, and not “asleep in the light” (Matthew 25:1-13).  This means we are to have a sense of perpetual readiness and anticipation, and being in constant personal spiritual growth.  The attitude that “I will get right with God just before Jesus comes back” is “foolishness”, imperiling the joy the believer can enter into with Christ.
  • Wait patiently for the coming of the Lord without giving in to skepticism about an apparent delay (James 5:7-8, 2Peter 3:3-4) or alarmist panic (2 Thessalonians 2:1,2), or concluding that He has already returned.
  • Hasten the day of His return by engaging in the world mission and and other activities of His Kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:33, 24:14, 2 Peter3:12).
From http://www.globalchristians.org/articles/parousia.htm

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Jesus’ prophetic description of the Parousia, the “end time” and the “day of judgment”, was not new to the people of Israel.  The prophets had foretold these events for many centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Please look up these references (cf., Isaiah 13:9-13; Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; and Zephaniah 1:14-18).  Jesus speaks of the “Second Coming” as a well-known fact among the pious Jews, an expected event which was certain to take place.  This “Second Coming” will be marked by “signs” ALL will be able to recognize, signs which will strike terror in those unprepared, and wonder and awe in those who are ready to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face.  When Jesus Christ returns He will establish “justice and righteousness” and He will justify all who have been faithful to Him.  His return and judgment is a sign of hope for those who TRUST IN HIM!!

Jesus wants each of us to learn a lesson from the fig tree.  Fig trees were common in the area, and an important source of food for the Jews and others living in the area.  A fig tree produces fruit twice a year, once in the early spring and again in the autumn.  The prophet Joel mentions it’s fruit-bearing ability as a “sign” of favor from “the Lord”:

“Do not fear, you animals in the wild, for the wilderness pastures sprout green grass.  The trees bear fruit, the fig tree and the vine produce their harvest” (Joel 2:22).

Jewish Scripture says that the “first fruit” came the day after Passover:  

“When you come into the land which I am giving you, and reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, who shall elevate the sheaf before the LORD that it may be acceptable on your behalf.  On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall do this.  On this day, when your sheaf is elevated, you shall offer to the LORD for a burnt offering an unblemished yearling lamb” (Leviticus 23:10-12)

For faithful Jews, it was widely believed that when the “Messiah” came, He would shepherd in the kingdom of God at Passover time.  This story foretells the joy of God’s kingdom, the joy of new life, and the promise of a new age of peace and blessing.  WOW – – this is absolutely AWESOME!!   

The “budding” of God’s kingdom begins first “in the hearts of those who are willing and receptive to God’s “Word”.  Those who trust in God’s “Word” will bear the fruits of His kingdom: righteousness, peace, and joy – – in and through the Holy Spirit:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

We do not know the day or hour when the Lord will return again in glory.  But Jesus does give us “signs”, not only to warn us, but also to “rouse our spirits”, readying and inspiring our individual eagerness to see His kingdom come in all its “power and glory”.  Our Lord God wants us to be filled with joyful anticipation for Jesus’ coming again (His Second Advent).  As He promised, Jesus Christ will surely “come again in all His glory”.

Jesus referenced the Book of Daniel in offering “Words” of warning and encouragement.  The warning to us is o LIVE TODAY as if it were your LAST DAY on earth: IT COULD BE!!  However, Jesus reminds us that our God in Heaven – – our heavenly Father – – is a loving God who sent Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – – Jesus Christ – – to save us!  Through Daniel, our Lord God proclaims that:

those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3).

Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten His disciples, nor should they frighten US!  Rather, they are offered to prepare us for the changes we will experience during our lifetimes and at the end times – – the Parousia “event”.  Our consolation and hope is found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ “Words” and God the Father’s ever-lasting, ever-enduring love for each of us.  Hey, what’s HIS sign?!

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The storm “of the century” this past October is not the “end-time” prophesied by Jesus; but it may have seemed so to the multi-thousands of people beaten down by the wind, water, flying objects, and even lack of heat, light, and gas.  The Atlantic coastline is changed forever.  Gas is being rationed for the short-term.  Recovery will be a monumental task, both physically and emotionally.  And, on top of this, the autumn “super-storm” on the East coast followed a summer inundation of drought in the Midwest and massive forest fires in the Western states. 

Many things in our lives and our world are subject to change.  However, each and every one of us obtains personal security and refuge in our personal relationships and values which endure over time.  Chief among these are our family and extended family relationships.  We can accept change if we know that we will continue to be loved by our family, by our friends, and by our Trinitarian God.  We also help impart this sense of trust, confidence, and love in our children, spouses, and others with our daily assurances to them that nothing can change our love for them.

So, grab a soda or cup of coffee, sit down, and look through several family photo albums.  Observe the things that have changed in your family life and other relationships over the years (like hair styles).  Think about the things that have stayed the same.  We do not need to fear changes in our personal lives because we know the most important aspects of our family life and strong friendships do not change, such as our love for one another.  Well, guess what; the same is true with God and His love for each and every single one of us.  Jesus is teaching us that things in our world will change and that the world itself will one day end!!  We don’t need to be “fearful” of the Parousia because God’s love for us will never end – – EVER!!  Pray to God, thanking Him for His ever-lasting and ever-enduring love for us.  Praise be to God!!

Our challenges of becoming aware and preparing for the Parousia are both dauntingly comprehensive and strikingly universal.  If we are inattentive or remiss in regard to the “end time”, we may miss our opportunity to be “ready” for Christ’s return.  If we remain alert and aware, if we take action and prepare, we “shall be like the stars forever“.  Doesn’t everyone want to be a “STAR“?!  (Oh, by the way, see what Jesus says about His “star-self” in Revelation 22:16 – – you will be surprised.)

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 Reflection Prayer: 

 

Luke 23:42

“Jesus, remember me when
you come into your kingdom.
Amen.”

 

 

 

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