Thirty Third Sunday, Year B

There is a real need for each one of us to recognise the signs of the times. In this Sunday’s GOSPEL [MARK 13: 24 – 32] Jesus proclaims “from the fig tree learn its lesson, as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves …. .”

I am well aware that all of today’s Scriptures point to the end of time itself, but the lesson (and challenge) for us to draw is to become more aware of what is actually going on around us – in our own lives, in the life of the Church, and in the society in which we live. The Christian disciple must avoid two extremes – on the one hand, to see everything through rose-coloured spectacles and pretend that all is well and, on the other, to become a prophet of doom.

Not only is pretence a defect but it also saps our energy so that we search for escape mechanisms, and establish fantasies (either that everything is hunky-dory or the very ‘pits’). In a Retreat preached last weekend I stated in one of the inputs that we need to be wary of any fantasy which convinced enough evolves into the reality which shapes us. Jesus never fantasied. This statement was built on the Text from Isaiah that“he will not break a bruised reed, or snuff out a smouldering wick.”{Isaiah 42:2}

The signs of the time – in our own lives, in the Church, and in society at large. Yes, indeed, there are real problems in each of these areas – and it is no good pretending otherwise. Yet the OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [DANIEL 12: 1 – 3] proclaims “but at that time your people shall be delivered … those who sleep in the dust … shall awake … and those who are wise shall shine. …”

Is it not time for each one of us to wake-up, become wise, and shine? However, we need to remember, from last week’s reflection, that we must focus on the plan, not the problem. Of course there are problems – what else do you expect? We need, however, to shine in reality – and the wise shine realistically. The late Cardinal Martini, a true prophet of our time because he read the signs, had as the motto on his Coat of Arms: “for the sake of truth, let us embrace the difficulties.” Herein, there is no room for fantasy.

We must allow the fact that we are already saints (see the reflection for All Saints) to become an overwhelming motivation in our dealing with the signs of the times. This Sunday’s NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [HEBREWS 10: 11 – 14.18] tells us that Jesus Christ, our high priest, “has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” We have been sanctified. We are already, in our imperfect state, perfect. In other words, we have in our possession the means of BECOMINGother than what we are. However, to achieve this we must learn to read the signs of the times. “For the sake of truth let us embrace the difficulties.” Remember what Jesus says in our Gospel extract about “after the great tribulation.” In other words, we must neither over nor underplay the difficulties of living. We need to see these through, and for this to be achieved we must develop the resources to develop a keener vision – a vision of reality, a knowledge of the signs of the times. Then, and then only, are we able to appreciate the words of THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [16] which proclaims “and so, my heart rejoices, my soul is glad; even my flesh shall rest in hope.”

The signs of the times – – –

In my own life – to be REAL about the stage I have reached, and what is reasonably possible for me to DO!

In the Church – to love it sufficiently in order to know it is not yet perfect but retains, like myself, the ability to BECOME so … provided it remains able to discern when the good pursued by any law would be vitiated by insisting on the ‘letter’.

In society – when we accept its enormous contributions but remain able to point the way forward, and not merely condemn.