THE Gospel Reading from Mark 13:24-32 this Sunday (November 14) provokes a sense of vigilance and urgency in us with the following words:
Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.
Here, Jesus refers to the darkening of the sun and the moon and the falling of the stars. These are images of the apocalypse – the end of the world and the Second Coming of the Son of Man in glory.
None of us know the definite time of the Second Coming, but it serves to remind us that our life on earth is impermanent. Hence, we need to have reverential fear that involves self-reflection about our right relationship with God and others and willingness to change from our sinful ways.
Furthermore, the Gospel urges us to wake up from our sleep, pay attention to the signs of times, and live in the moment. For our lives are passing and fragile. So Psalm 39 speaks of it:
Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days, that I may learn how frail I am. To be sure, you establish the expanse of my days; indeed, my life is nothing before you. Every man is but a breath.
Psalm 90:12 shares the same sentiment:
Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong. Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
James 4:14 has similar concerns:
You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
I don’t mean to sound pessimistic; I merely want us to see the reality of life — that it’s fragile, so we should handle it with care and prayer.
So what attitude should we have to deal with the impermanence, brevity, and uncertainty of life and times? Let me borrow the advice of Steven Pinker:
Nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift.
And so, being consciously aware of every blessing, such as every breath we take and the water we drink and bathe in, would be an essential daily practice.
However, in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gets deeper than our appreciation of our earthly life and blessings. He reminds us of God’s eternal love for us. He tells us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass.” These are words of love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, hope, and his abiding presence.
* * *
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
* * *
Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.