"The end is near!"
One of my favorite cartoons about the end of the world shows the bearded ascetic with his warning sign, which says something like: "The end is not coming. You have to learn to cope with it along with the rest of us!"
"The end is near!"
As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the focus of our Sunday readings turns to the end times and to what is expected of those who claim to be faithful disciples of the living God. As disciples, we are expected to know and live out the covenant relationship that God has initiated and that we have accepted.
This year, Nov. 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Sunday. The solemnity supersedes the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time and offers Lectionary readings unique to its themes. All the readings focus on our status as "children of God" (second reading) called into loving and eternal relationship with God and with all those who belong to God.
How often do we secretly find ourselves standing with James and John, hoping for the public recognition of being with Jesus in glory? Having read the Scriptures and learned something of manners, few of us would be as unsophisticated and obvious as they were. (Matthew 20:20-23 makes their mother the petitioner, thus salvaging something of the brothers' reputation.)
Have you ever felt that the challenges of being an authentic disciple are just too great? Have you ever been overwhelmed by Jesus' teachings? Love your enemies; pray for your persecutors. Offer no resistance to injury. When a person strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the other. In giving alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Do not lay up for yourselves an earthly treasure. Store up treasure in heaven. Forgive without limit. Do not turn away the borrower. Sell what you have and give to the poor. Judge not, lest you be judged.
"They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate."
This affirmation of the intent and sanctity of marriage, first set forth in the Book of Genesis and then repeated by the Marcan Jesus, may appear to be a beautiful but impossible ideal -- as seem so many of the teachings postulated by Jesus in the Gospel. But Jesus was not a proponent of the impossible.
Pope Francis has tried to warn us that the word of God is unruly, that it accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking (“The Joy of the Gospel”). Frankly, the unruliness of the word has been a problem for God’s people from their very beginnings, and today’s readings show us how and why.
Today’s selection from Wisdom sounds like a playground war: “Get him! He thinks he’s too smart! Goody two-shoes, just you wait and see!” (There should probably be all kinds of “$##¡@&**@!” representing the colorful language used by our preteen perpetrators.)
If you have watched reruns of the TV series "M*A*S*H," you might remember the scenes where the medical staff performs triage each time a helicopter arrives with more wounded from the Korean War. After they do a quick visual evaluation, the staff assesses each patient's physical condition and assigns their treatment to the medical professional best suited to help them.
Spiritual Reflections: Today's first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel from Mark are excellent examples of the effectiveness of God's word to realize what it announces.