The Harvest
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

There is an interesting movie currently showing in city theaters. It is about the end of the world in 2012. The date is based on the old Mayan calendar predicting a cycle of destruction and renewal. Based on the trailers we saw, the visual effects are amazing. Technologically, movie visual artists have gone a long way from the partition of the sea in the movie, “The Ten Commandments,” to the cataclysms depicted in this current movie, “2012.”

Action starter: If this is the last day, what is to be my last important act?

Do thoughts about the end of the world give you sleepless nights? In today’s gospel, Jesus describes the scene, “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mk. 13:24-26). This prediction echoes the apocalyptic image found in the first reading (Dan. 12:1-3). Both the book of Daniel and the gospel according to Mark were written during times of social upheaval.

The book of Daniel was written at a time of persecution of the Jews during the Greek domination. The practice of Judaism was forbidden under pain of torture and death (described in the two books of Maccabees). The book of Daniel was written to encourage the Jews to hold on to their faith. These trials are as nothing compared to the day of the vindication of those who remain firm and faithful at the coming of God’s kingdom. The Gospel describes this day of judgment as the coming of the Son of Man. This coming of the messiah-judge has its portents and signs. Just like the fig tree whose green shoots are signs that summer and the fruiting season are coming, so present trials and persecutions are signs that the judgment and the harvest are imminent. The Christian disciple has to remain hopeful and faithful during times of trials.

Mark’s gospel was written between the time of the resurrection-ascension and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. It was a time of socio-political confusion. It was a time when the early Christian communities were expecting the second coming of Jesus to happen soon. There were questions as to the exact moment. It was in this light that the Lord’s words are to be understood, “”But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk. 13:32).

What can we learn from apocalyptic literature? It is clear from these writings that there will come a time of judgment and an end to this world as we know it. Whether this world will end with a great deluge or a great fire we do not know. Scientific theories abound and they make their way into the creative imagination of movie producers and writers. Predictions have been made as to the exact day or hour. Since the invention of the nuclear bomb, we have come to the awareness that such cataclysm is within our human powers. We are capable of destroying this world many times over. The issue of global warming is not just a theory. Now we see clear signs that it is indeed happening, partly due to human activity.

Perhaps we can look at our own human concerns with this larger picture in mind. Against this wider background of the end times, we can judge our conduct of our day to day concerns as well as our pursuit of what seem to be important in life such as prestige, wealth, power, and possessions.

In the end, as St. Paul says, only love really matters. The end times are only a prelude to a new beginning – a new heaven and new earth. Everything will pass away but only love will remain.