Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. Mark seems to be addressing the end of time, but actually hides a sermon in this 13th chapter of his gospel. Why hide it? What is the message? Take a look!
18 November 2012 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Princeton, NJSitting around home a few weeks ago, using a flashlight and trying to stay warm while Sandy stirred outside Ibegan to work on a homily for this week’s gospel. It was then that I turned to the passage and began to read:“The sun will be darkened.” “The moon will not give its light.” “Stars will fall from the sky.” “Heaven and earthwill pass away.” And with trees crashing outside my window, the gospel seemed to be hitting a bit too close tohome! Needless to say, at first glance, it seems hard to find the good news in this gospel. Today’s gospel isoften referred to as apocalyptic – meaning it speaks of the end of time. Now keep in mind, Mark and hisfollowers were under the strong assumption that the second coming of Christ would take place in their lifetime.But, again, the lectionary has hampered our comprehension by giving us only a slice of Mark’s 13 th chapter. Bytaking what comes before and after this passage and dropping it into context we have better insight into whatMark was really writing about. It may be no surprise to you, especially after just having to endure ourpresidential elections, this chapter is really about politics – specifically the political situation in Galilee around 69AD. It gives us a contrast between a military call to arms to protect the Temple and Jesus’ call to discipleship.Around the time that Mark was writing his Gospel, nearly forty years after the death of Christ, an insurrectionwas taking place in order to restore Israel and to drive out the Roman occupation. The Jews were beingreminded that they must rise up and defend the holy city. Rebels were recruiting fighters for their messianic warby reminding the community that the end of time is near. In essence, you’re going to die soon anyway, so mightas well fight for the cause! The question being raised by the early Christians was whether they should enter thepending battle and if so, whose side to take. While Christ always spoke of nonviolence his followers were beingpressured to side with the Jews or the Romans and were unsure what to do.The situation calls for Mark to provide some direction, but he needs to do so in a veiled way. The last thingMark wants to do is bring the wrath or retribution of either side down upon the community. Mark, knowing thecore message of non-violence that Christ taught, also knows that persecution and dark times are ahead for thedisciples. So he uses this chapter to basically drop in a disguised homily to reiterate the teachings of Christ andto warn his listeners that no one has any obligation to join forces on either side.Even decades after the death and resurrection of Christ, the focus for many of his followers was still the Temple.With over 90% of the local economy generated in the Temple, life was centered on its supporting monetarystructure. And yet it was Christ who over turned the tables and walked out of the Temple and predicted itsdestruction. It was Christ who warned of scribes who walked around in long robes, accepting seats of honor anddevouring the money of the poor. It was Christ who rejected the Temple because of its system, structure and itsleadership which oppressed the people.But what are the disciples focused on? Last week as the gospel comes to a close Jesus speaks of the poorwidow who has given all she has to the treasury, in other words, the Temple. And if the lectionary had given usthe next two lines you would have heard the disciples admiring the great architecture of the temple andchecking out the fine robes that are being worn.The disciples still don’t get it. Mark’s community still doesn’t get it. And my brothers and sisters for the most partmany of us still don’t get it. Not much has really changed – we just have different temples that we hold inesteem. We are still focused on building our temple with the right words, the right chants and defining the rightpeople who can come to the table. And our culture provides a multitude of temples and addictions that feed ouregos and take our eye off of true discipleship.But Christ never asked for any of it. He never asked to be worshiped. Rather he asked us to do somethingmuch more difficult. He asked us to follow him. Christ led a life focused outside the Temple with those living in 1 Deacon Jim Knipper
the margins and on the fringes. He never excluded anyone but instead affirmed the outside. And he simplyasked us to do two things: Love God and love your neighbor.Easier said than done. For we prefer to weigh and measure others, what they look like, how they act, who theylove, where they worship and even who they vote for. Just feels so good to be right all the time, and others beso wrong! Our ego really hates to change, hates to face the shadows, hates to face darkness. For we live in aculture that is addicted to itself. But here is the good news. It is in that darkness that we find God!Earlier this month, for about a week, most of us were physically plunged into darkness and cold. In one of myblogs I called this the great equalizer. Rich or poor, young or old, black or white, republican or democrat, withindifference to one’s social economic status – we were all cold and living in darkness. And what happened? Acommunity came together to help one another in so many ways. People sharing generators, getting gas foreach other, bringing food to those who had no means to cook. With the inability to easily charge electronicdevices, people were engaging and interacting with each other. It was interesting to see the good things thatcame out of being in darkness.Just as the trees that were blown down in the storm have created space that will bear new light and thus newlife - the storms were a reminder that we live in a cycle of darkness and light....we live with daily paschalmysteries – a constant dying to darkness and being awakened to Christ. The cross is not a symbol of defeatbut rather rebirth. And all that is through the great mercy of God.That is the lesson of the fig tree referenced in today’s gospel. Of all the trees in the Holy Land, the fig tree is theonly one that is deciduous. Christ uses the seasonal cycle of the fig tree to make his point. As autumn arrivesleading into the dead of winter, the fig tree loses its leaves and awaits spring which brings the bursting forth ofnew shoots, bearing new life, new leaves, new shade, and finally coming around full circle to autumn, onceagain. Likewise, we cannot expect an evergreen life, but rather one filled with ebbs and flows, darkness andlight. But within each cycle, God is always there.But wait a second, I thought this reading was about the end of time? So do we really need to worry about anyof this yet? Well actually.... this reading is all about today. You see the “time” that Mark was referring to wasnot the Greek “chronos” time – rather it was “kairos” time – that is, the now time, the present time. Mark is notnecessarily referring to the end of the world – he is calling them...and us to change our way of living right now.In the Eastern Catholic Church, before the mass begins the deacon exclaims to the priest. “It is Kairos (time) forthe Lord to act”...meaning that the time of the liturgy – the time of the work of the people – every presentmoment - is an intersection with God. Every moment is an opportunity of the indwelling God to work within you.So as we near the end of Liturgical year, may our eyes be opened by allowing the light of Christ into thedarkness in our lives. May we shed our egos and turn to radical discipleship rooted in the gospel and not in ourtemples. And may we be ever aware that now is the time to be in a loving relationship with our ever mercifulGod. 2 Deacon Jim Knipper