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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Daniel 12: 1-3 + Psalm 16: 5, 8-11 + Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18 + Mark 13: 24-32
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: November 14, 2021

Too many Christians take passages like this one from Mark’ Gospel
and look for signs pointing to the end of the world.
But that’s not what these words of Jesus are about at all.
In Mark, Jesus clearly states that no one knows the day nor the hour
of the end of the world—only the Father.

Too many Christians today are drowning in apathy, thinking that all the events
turning their world upside down mean the world is ending,
so they throw up their hands and do nothing.

But that is not the point of this gospel passage.
Rather, what Jesus is teaching his followers is the enduring truth
that when our own “little worlds” seem to be ending,
this is just the beginning of something new.

That is why the parable of the fig tree is the central point of this gospel passage.
Jesus encourages his disciples, in the midst of the tragedies and upheavals of life,
to look for signs of new life.
There, in those budding signs of new life, they will find Him near, coming to them.

This is not a “doom and gloom” gospel, for the focus is not on the pain that is part of life on this earth, but about what the Lord of life is doing in the midst of “death”
to bring about new life.
The focus is not on all the losses we experience in life, but on what the Lord of Light
is doing in the midst of darkness to renew our lives.

It is important to note when these words in Mark’s Gospel are spoken by Jesus.
Jesus speaks them two days before Passover,
two days from what we Christians call, “The Last Supper.”
Jesus is only 3 days from being tortured and killed on the cross,
from his world as he knows it coming to an end.
On that Good Friday the sun will be darkened, the earth will shake,
and Jesus’ followers who witness this spectacle on Calvary
will be tempted to think their world has come to an end.

But this ending is just the beginning of resurrected life for Jesus, just the beginning
for his followers who will share in new life with Jesus by the gift of His Spirit.
On the cross, Jesus makes the one perfect sacrifice of love which transforms
all sorrow into joy, all suffering into glory, all dying into new life.

On tree of the cross, Jesus experiences excruciating physical pain.
When we experience bodily pain consuming every waking minute and disturbs our sleep,
putting an end to our world as we had known it,
Jesus not only understands, he is with us in it.

Jesus also plunges into the darkness of searing emotional pain, as his heart is broken
by the betrayal of a close friend, by another close friend denying him,
and others who had been close to him scattering in fear and abandoning him.
When we taste heartbreak, when our family members and friends and others
wound our heart, when we feel like we are all alone and no one understands, Jesus does.
And he carries us through this experience of “dying” into new life.

Jesus, fully human like you and me, enters into the greatness darkness we encounter, when we feel abandoned not just by others, but by God.
On the cross in Mark’s Gospel he cries out,
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
When we feel like God has abandoned us, as if the sun has stopped shining,
the stars have fallen from the sky, the moon no longer gives forth any light—
when we feel this kind of complete darkness, it is even there that Jesus is with us, assuring us that even though we feel as he did on the cross,
that God the Father will never ever abandon his children.

By his one perfect sacrifice of love, Jesus will destroy
that which seems to end everything, death itself, doing what we cannot do for ourselves.

By his one perfect sacrifice of love, Jesus assures us that he is with us in all things,
even in the darkness of pain, distress, suffering, and even death itself.
Jesus experiences everything we fear most—
physical suffering, heartbreak, feeling God’s absence—
in order that everything which seems like the end
can be a new beginning for us with Him!

Those who know Christ’s power to bring life out of death are “fig-tree disciples.”
Those who move forward through what seems like the end with hope of a new beginning, producing fruit for the salvation of the world, are “fig-tree disciples.”

We are invited by the Crucified One now Risen to look and see the signs of new life
in the midst of what seems like death.
To use the eyes of faith to notice fig-tree disciples all around us.

When fig-tree disciples encounter physical pain and bodily suffering,
they turn to the Lord for strength.
These disciples are not crushed by tragedy, but live in hope.

These kind of disciples do not view handicaps as a hindrance to living life fully,
but rise above their limitations with Jesus’ help and seize opportunities
to enrich the lives of others.

These kind of disciples trust in God’s goodness even amidst the disappointments of life.
When their hearts are broken, they continue to take the risk of loving again
with Christ’s help.
When they feel abandoned by God, they trust with Jesus’ help that God is still with them.

Fig-tree disciples confront centuries old “isms”, like racism and sexism and other “isms,” in order to uphold the God-given dignity of every person, the sacred gift of each life.
In doing so, they usher out the old world and bring in a new world.

Fig-tree disciples move forward each day with confidence and courage
that the Lord Jesus by the power of His Spirit is with them bringing new life out of death and transforming every ending into a new beginning.
Disciples of the One who brought forth new life from the tree of the cross
do the small daily deeds of sacrificial love hidden from the headlines,
knowing that Christ can bring much fruit from these acts of love.

We who follow the Crucified and Risen Lord are active in hope, tireless in love, and persevere in faith.
Jesus was being held in the Father’s hands on the cross.
So we know this truth, that Jesus from the tree of the cross has taught us, that God our Father holds the whole world in his hands and will never let it go.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi