WE ARE PEOPLE OF HOPE
Readings: Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14.18; Mark 13: 24-32.
It is commonly said, “After the darkest of the night comes a new dawn.” The night could be so long, but dawn is certain. Passing through the tunnel could be so rigorous, stressful and painful but at the end of it comes great joy. This is also comparable to the birth of a new life after a woman’s labour. Have you lost hope and you think things can no longer get better? We are people of hope and the liturgy of today brings us the hope of salvation and deliverance amidst the great troubles and sufferings we undergo on a daily basis.
The first reading taken from the book of the prophet Daniel presents to us in an apocalyptic tone the time of trouble destined for Israel, the promise of deliverance and salvation of the righteous. It says, “At that time shall arise Michael the great prince who has charge of your people.” The Angel Michael is often associated with spiritual battle (Dan 10:13,21; Rev. 12:7). He has a special job of protecting, and God appoints Angel Michael as a spiritual guardian over Israel. So, when the reading says, “There shall be time of trouble,” it refers to the time of persecution for Israel and world calamity known as the great tribulation.
Despite the tribulation of Israel, the Lord said, “…at that time, your people shall be delivered, every one whose name is found written in the book.” It is the hope of salvation, that God will always remain faithful to His words, the promise He made to our father Abraham: “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7). Invariably, despite the great attacks and tribulations of the Israelites, deliverance was assured and God’s promises preserved them.
As in the case of the Israelites, we are passing through tribulations in various ways. It is quite sad hearing from even Catholics saying, “I am tired of praying against bribery and corruption and no longer say the prayer for Nigeria in distress.” Christians have become doubtful of their faith, and wonder if things would really get better. If so, where is our hope? Some cannot believe anymore that our nation will get better. Some can no longer cope with the cruel lifestyle of their spouses and children. Being optimistic, we have hope as we look forward to better days and are assured of God’s promises that things will get better someday.
Christ in the gospel of today began with the apocalyptic writing that “After the great tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heavens and the powers in the heaven will be shaken.” He uses different natural causes in order to remind us of His great coming, which gives us a tone of advent. The apocalyptic expression is a thing of doom and gloom, which has a purpose of awakening people. Christ quoting this expression is at the same time saying to us, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” He will not only come in glory, but has come to dwell among us so that we might be saved from sin and death. Thus, hope does not disappoint; salvation becomes reality.
Speaking about the timing of His coming, He uses the fig tree, which has a regular pattern for winter and summer to describe his coming. The fig tree shades its leaves to signify the end of the season and looking forward to a new beginning and a new season. He also said, “But of that day and hour no one knows…” As regards this, some Christians seem to think that, “Since the time of Jesus’ coming cannot be known, we need not think much about it.” On this note, St. Mark the evangelist draws the opposite conclusion: since the timing is unknown, we should think about it at all time! The timing could be today! Maybe this evening, or at midnight, or when dawn breaks. Let us not be deceived by false teachings on ‘untimely death,’ there is nothing like that. The time we die, is the time chosen for us. This time or hour, no one knows when it will come. Death could come at any time, which signifies the end of the earthly season and the beginning of the eternal season. It is the point of eternal salvation or destruction. Have we thought of this? If yes, we must be prepared at all time so that we are not caught unaware. If we take His words to heart and stay close to Him on our journey, we will have nothing to fear, for heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not pass away.
We are not to live in fear, but amend our ways of life, which the second reading makes clear to us. The greatest fear of man is death and Christ has conquered death by offering himself for all time in a single sacrifice for sins, and now sits at the right hand of God, until his enemies are made into a footstool for his feet.
In a nutshell, today’s liturgy reminds us that no situation is permanent, for heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s words will never pass away. This is our hope as Christians. To those who have suffered an affliction for years and keep looking up to God, do not lose hope for there is great joy for those who persevere till end.
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ