November 26, 2015
by Dennis Hamm, S.J.
Creighton University's Theology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 506

Daniel 6:12-28
Daniel 3:68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74
Luke 21:20-28

Praying Ordinary Time

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As we head toward Advent, we begin to hear readings that refer to the end-time revelation of Christ, the second coming. These end-time passages often lead people to speculate about the when and the what of the ultimate end-time events. Ironically, that is precisely what Jesus and the Gospel writers do NOT want us to focus on. Think of Mark 13:32: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So, DON’T go figure.

Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple. Forty years later, when the Romans did exactly that in response to the uprisings of the late 60s, people naturally speculated that other end-time things, including the parousia of the risen Lord, would not be far behind. Mark, the first evangelist chronologically, was quick to assure his fellow Christians that “the end was still to come,” although he didn’t hesitate to associate the destruction of with the apocalyptic sign of the “desolating sacrilege” prophesied by the prophet Daniel (Dan 9:27; ll:31) at Mark 13:14.

By the time Luke wrote--around the 80s, scholars guess--the destruction of the temple in AD 70 had become the Judeans’ “9/11.” More time had elapsed without the parousia occurring, but Christians continued to speculate about contemporary events as signs of the end. Luke’s response to that atmosphere was to further develop Mark’s point that “the end is still to come” and that the important Christian response was to be alert, ready, and attentive to the life and mission of the Church. Luke did this in several ways: (1) He affirmed that the destruction of Jerusalem and its city indeed happened as the prophet Jesus prophesied. (2) He relegated that urban catastrophe to history by removing the Mark allusion to Daniel’s “desolating sacrilege” and spoke of an extended period, “the times of the gentiles,” that would unfold before the coming of Jesus as the glorious Son of Man. (3) He warned of false Messiahs. (4) He developed the theme of “today”—i.e. the current period of the Church’s life under the rule of the risen Lord as the necessary focus of Christians--a theme that ran from the “today” of the Christmas announcement of the angel of God to the “today” of the  promise of Jesus to the penitent bandit crucified next to him.

This theme shows up clearly in Luke’s version of Jesus’ prophecy during the inquest before the Sanhedrin, as compared to Mark’s version. As Mark tells it, Jesus tells the council, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62)—clearly a reference to Daniel 7 applied to the second coming. But Luke puts it this way: “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69)—clearly a reference to the resurrection of Jesus and the current period following it, i.e. the today  of Luke’s audience, then and now. Pope Francis writes from the same perspective in his encyclical on Care for our Common Home, when he writes to wake us up to our place in the today of our place in history. The effects of climate change are not apocalyptic signs of an imminent end of history. Rather they are a call for us to take responsibility for the damage our species had done to the climate system of planet Earth, a call to the human family to change our ways in order to mitigate those effects and to make reasonable adaptations.

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