33rd Sunday of Year B

COMMENTARYAGAPE BIBLE STUDYSUNDAY WEBSITELIFE APPLICATIONSCATENA AUREA

Commentary Excerpts (PDF)

SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
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OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Key Points to the Readings

FIRST READING

Daniel 12:1-3

Those who lead others to justice shall be like stars!

  • The first reading is an example of apocalyptic biblical literature.
  • After predicting the great destruction of all human kingdoms, Daniel 12 portrays the ultimate victory.
  • Today’s passage is the clearest statement concerning resurrection from the dead found in the Old Testament.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

SECOND READING

Hebrews 10:11-14, 18

Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God.

  • Today’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus’ victory over sin and death is one in which we already share.
  • Jesus will come again, and the believer must be ready.
  • The day and hour Christ will come, no one knows.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

GOSPEL

Mark 13:24-32

God alone knows the hour.

  • The author of the Gospel of Mark expresses the urgency and need for vigilance felt at this time when Christ might return at any moment.
  • Today’s passage is an apocalyptic discourse linking the events of the destruction of Jerusalem with the expected second coming of Christ.
  • The imagery of cosmic catastrophe surrounds the expectation.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

DR. KIERAN J. O’MAHONY, OSA

But about that day or hour no one knows, but only the Father

SOURCE: HEARERS OF THE WORD
Navarre Bible, et alia
Commentary on Sunday's Readings (PDF)

Click to access 33-ordinary-time-year-b.pdf

Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible. In addition, Church History by Laux (TAN Books), Introduction to the Bible by Laux (TAN Books), A Guide to the Bible by Fuentes (Four Courts Press), and Sharing Our Biblical Story by Russell for background information. We also included quotations from The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 volumes) by Jergens and Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (many volumes) edited by Odum.
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
DR. BRANT PITRE
READ THE TRANSCRIPT

So we’ll just begin in verse 24. Jesus says, “In those days after that tribulation,” pause, right there. Okay, what tribulation is he talking about? Well he’s referring here to the preceding verses where he described wars breaking out, and rumors of wars, and a desecration of the Temple and needing to flee from Jerusalem and get out of the city, right, and go to the hills. All those things clearly refer to the wars that led up to the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. For one thing, it doesn’t make any sense for Jesus to tell you to flee to the hills if it’s the end of the world because if the world is going down, getting to the hills outside of Judea is not going to help you. But if it’s the Temple being destroyed in a war then of course that makes lots of sense. So what Jesus is saying is that leading up to the destruction of the Temple there’s going to be this time of great tribulation, okay, of wars and rumors of wars. And sure enough, we know that from Josephus and other historians that when the Romans came in and destroyed the Temple it was an unprecedented time of suffering and death. Over a million Jews were killed. They were crucifying Jews, 500 Jews a day, the Romans were, outside the city of Jerusalem. It was an unprecedented amount of bloodshed and horror and death. People were starving inside the city, eating their own children. It was a terrible, terrible time. So all of this tribulation is described in the preceding verses that we don’t actually hear from today.

So Jesus here describes after the tribulation, “the sun will be darkened, moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling from heaven and powers in heaven will be shaken. And they’ll see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory, and they’ll send out his angels, gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth and from the ends of heaven.” Okay, now when you read those verses your first move, the first thing you think of, will probably be the final coming of Jesus, the end of time right, the final judgment, the Son of Man coming in power and glory. There is a sense in which that’s definitely true of these verses, however, a number of scholars have pointed out that if you look at Jesus’ words in light of the Old Testament, the very images he uses here of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving it’s light, the stars falling from heaven are also images that the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others used to refer to the destruction of a city or the destruction of an Empire. So if you go back to Jeremiah 13, or you go back to Jeremiah 3, or Isaiah 1 or several other prophecies in the Old Testament, whenever the prophets would describe God coming in judgment to destroy a city they would say things like the sun went dark, the stars fell from heaven, the moon didn’t give it’s light, God comes on the clouds in judgment, right. So what they use there is they use cosmic images to refer to a political event of cosmic significance, like the overthrow of a major city, whether it’s Babylon or Egypt or Jerusalem, the prophets would use similar images for Jerusalem. So the prophetic language in the Old Testament doesn’t necessarily, in fact we know it doesn’t, mean the end of time because those were just historical events where cities had been destroyed because of their sinfulness. So on one level here a case can be made that Jesus is actually talking about the Son of Man coming in judgment when Jerusalem is destroyed…

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FIRST READING

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SECOND READING

HEBREWS 10:11-14.  BY ONE OFFERING

HEBREWS 10:15-18.  THE HOLY SPIRIT TESTIFIES TO US

GOSPEL

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Hope Amid Tribulation and Judgment

HIDE/SHOW OVERVIEW

This Sunday is the second to the last week of the Church year. Next week, we will celebrate the final week in Ordinary Time with the Feast of Christ the King, which sets His Church on the path to Advent. The approaching of the Advent season should remind us that just as Mary was waiting for the birth of God the Son, we are waiting for the day when God will remove the veil that separates people and nations from one another in Christ’s Second Advent. It is a day that will usher in the Last/Final Judgment, the focus of the First Reading and the Gospel Reading.

The Last Judgment is the theme of the First Reading in which the prophet Daniel (6th century BC) announces the deliverance of God’s holy people through the mediation of the Archangel Michael, in which the faithful who awake to everlasting life are those whose names are in God’s Book of Life. These are the wise ones who have remained faithful to God and who will experience the joy of the everlasting Kingdom and its covenant that God promised them through His prophets (Dan 2:44; 7:14; Jer 32:40; 50:5).

In the Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist recounts the blessings that come from God to those who devote themselves to Him. God is a constant guide and vigilant protector of the faithful remnant, looking after their spiritual well-being in the journey through earthly life. The psalmist expresses the hope that God will preserve him from eternal corruption and raise His servant’s bodily from death. The Church Fathers interpreted the psalmist’s petition to point to the event of Jesus rising from the dead in His Resurrection in the same body He had in His mortal life.

In the Second Reading, the inspired writer reminds us that the sacrifice of Christ is unique. It completes and surpasses all the other old covenant sacrifices. In God the Father’s gift to humanity, He handed His Son over to sinners to reconcile humanity with Himself. It is also the free-will offering Jesus made in freedom and love by offering His life to His Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for humanity’s rebellion and disobedience on the altar of the Cross. Therefore, the inspired writer envisions Christ’s return when justice reigns supreme and when the enemies of Christ, who stood in opposition to God’s divine plan, receive just punishment.

The first reading prepares us for the Gospel Reading, in which Jesus is visiting Jerusalem for the last time. As His Passion and death draw near, Jesus teaches about hope, telling the people of His time and us what will happen in His Second Advent. He uses the image of a fig tree responding to the change in seasons in His teaching concerning people recognizing the signs of His Second Coming. Jesus describes a great tribulation for people of the earth that will end in an upheaval of the cosmos and His return in glory. Christ’s Second Coming will bring about the dissolution of God’s creation and the Final Judgment of all humanity that will call the righteous to eternal bliss and the wicked to everlasting punishment.

Just because a long time has passed since Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven, do not doubt that the period of tribulation and the hope of eternal salvation in the Second Advent of Christ is coming. St. Peter warned the Church: But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar, and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out (2 Pt 3:8-10; also see 1 Thess 5:2-4).

The Holy Spirit calls the faithful in every age to be watchful and ready for that great and terrible day. But we have the hope of knowing, as we pray in today’s psalm, that so long as we persist in the obedience of faith that God will never abandon us. Instead, He will show the faithful remnant of His people “the path to life” that is eternal, the “fullness of joy” in His presence, and the righteous will “delight” at His “right hand forever.”

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

FIRST READING

AGAPE STUDY

The Last Judgment

1 In those days, I, Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: “At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time, our people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. 2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. 3 But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”

When the Prophet Daniel received this vision, the people of God were suffering. They were in exile in the pagan land of Babylon, and they were desperately waiting for the time when they completed God’s judgment of seventy years in exile (Jer 25:11; 29:10). Daniel prophesies that they will return to their homeland; however, they will suffer under the domination of a series of four pagan kingdoms and foreign rule (Dan 2:27-45).

Daniel’s prophecy was confirmed historically. First, the Persians defeated their Babylon overlords, who the Greeks replaced. Second, the Greek Syrians attempted to force them to worship the Greek gods and embrace Hellenistic culture, which they successfully resisted. And later (after a brief period of independence), they were dominated by the Romans. But, no matter what the faithful people of God suffered in the years to come, Daniel foretold that one day there would be a deliverance like none other in the history of humanity when God would establish an everlasting fourth Kingdom (Dan 2:44).

On that promised day, God will send the archangel Michal, the prince of angels and guardian of Israel (Jude 9; Rev 12:7). Perhaps St. Michael will sound the call that will announce Jesus’s return and the beginning of the Last/Final Judgment (1 Thes 4:16). At the time, the Books of Deeds and the Book of Life will be opened (Dan 12:1; Rev 20:11-12). The “wise” (verse 3) who remained faithful to God’s commandments and exercised righteous worship will arise to everlasting life, but the wicked and those who rejected or abandoned God in a time of trial will awaken to horror and disgrace (verse 2). The judgment is final, and the outcome for all the righteous and the wicked will never change; it is forever (see Mt 25:31-46).

The wise who kept their unwavering/steadfast faith and obedience to God’s commandments (even to the point of martyrdom) and those who shared their faith with others will shine the brightest “like the splendor of the firmament” in a bodily resurrection (verse 3). The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel wrote symbolically of a resurgence of the people of God in terms of a spiritual resurrection (cf. Is 26:19; Ez chapter 37). However, Daniel writes about the bodily resurrection as an actual event as will Jesus in His discourses on His Second Advent and the Last/Final Judgment in the Gospels (Mt 24:29-44, 31-46; Mk 13:24-32; Lk 21:25-35). The Church, in the light of Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels, believes that “all the dead will rise in a bodily resurrection, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (Jn 5:39; cf Dan 12:2; (CCC 998).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

God our Hope and Inheritance

Response: “You are my inheritance, O Lord!”

Attributed to David, this psalm addresses the psalmist’s relationship and total dedication to Yahweh, his Lord. In verse 5, he speaks of the Lord God as his “allotted portion.” He may be comparing himself to the Levitical ministers. They received no portion of the Promised Land because, in their dedication to God for ministerial service, He became their portion and their inheritance of liturgical service in the Temple and their allotted portion of the sacrifices (cf. Num 18:20; Dt 10:9; Josh 13:14; Ps 73:25). The psalmist is content with his calling and has confidence that his service will lead to the promised cup of salvation in the everlasting Kingdom of his Lord (cf. Ps 116:13).

In verses 8-11, the psalmist recounts the blessings that come from God to those who devote themselves to Him. God is his constant guide and his vigilant protector. God looked after his well-being in his earthly life, and the psalmist expresses the hope that his Lord will preserve him from eternal corruption because He will raise his servant bodily from the dead (verse 9-10). The Church Fathers interpreted verse 9 to mean that Jesus rose from the dead in His Resurrection in the same body as He had in His mortal life (cf. St. Jerome, Breviarium in Psalmos, 15.10).

10 because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.  11 You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.

The word translated “netherworld” is the Hebrew word Sheol and in Greek Hades (CCC 633), meaning the grave or abode of the dead. The psalmist is joyful because he has confidence that God will raise him from death in a bodily resurrection and because God has shown his servant the “path to life” in obedience to the Law.

St. Peter spoke of David’s knowledge of the resurrection in his address to the crowds on Pentecost Sunday. He told the Jewish crowd:

My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day.  But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon this throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption (Acts 2:29-31).

The Fathers of the Church also applied the words you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld in verse 10 to Jesus’s descent from His tomb into Sheol/Hades/the grave/netherworld to deliver the dead and to His glorious Resurrection (Origen, In Evangelium Ioannis, 1.220). It was the deliverance from death and corruption in Sheol that St. Peter wrote about in his First Letter to the universal Church. In it, he referred to Sheol/Hades as “prison”:

For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.  Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.  In it, he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark (1 Pt 3:18-20).  Peter continued: For this was why the Gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God” (1 Pt 4:6).

That Jesus delivered the souls from Sheol/Hades is what St. Paul wrote about in his Letter to the Ephesians (Eph 4:9-10), and it is what we profess in the Apostles’ Creed (CCC 631)

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

SECOND READING

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

The Efficacy of Jesus’s One Perfect Sacrifice

11 Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins.  12 But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; 13 now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.  14 For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.  […].
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.

See the commentary in the Sunday readings for the past six Sundays on the Letter to the Hebrews passages.

11 Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. 

The inspired writer alternates between alluding to sacrifices offered:

  1. Once a year, as in the feast days like the Day of Atonement sacrifices (9:7, 12; Lev 16, 23, Num 28-29)
  2. Weekly as in the Sabbath sacrifice (Num 28:9-10)
  3. Sacrifices offered daily as in the perpetual morning and afternoon communal Tamid sacrifice (Ex 29:38-42)
  4. Voluntary sacrifices as in the individual sin and communion sacrifices

See Heb 7:27; 10:11; Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:4-8; also  see CCC 1966608613-14616618. The Sinai Covenant priests offered their ministerial service while standing (verse 11), offering animal sacrifice, grain, and wine libations at the altar, and leading the community in prayer. Our New Covenant priests also stand at the altar table to offer the sacrifice in the bread and wine that become the Body and Blood of Christ and lead the congregation in prayer.

12 But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; 13 now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.

The inspired writer’s point is that all the old covenant sacrifices were imperfect and had to be repeated continually, unlike Christ’s unique once and for all time blood sacrifice, which is perfect. The Catechism teaches: “The sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices. First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself.  At the same time, it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience” (CCC 614). Jesus “stood” until His one sacrifice, offered for the sins of humanity, was complete and then took His seat forever at the right hand of God the Father. That Jesus “took his seat forever at the right hand of God” is a Semitic expression which means Jesus shares power with God the Father in Heaven where He prays for us. Knowing that He continually prays for us gives us hope in our present circumstances and our promise of eternal salvation.

Jesus “sits” in His kingly role as ruler and Divine Judge of His Kingdom, but according to St. John’s vision in the Book of Revelation, He also still “stands” in priestly service (Rev 5:5-6). That Jesus fulfills both the role of eternal Davidic King and High Priest is not a contradiction any more than Jesus’s role as both High Priest and the sacrificial victim is a contradiction. The inspired writer would agree with the accuracy of the vision of St. John and its theological implications since he too stated that every High Priest must have “something to offer” in Hebrews 8:3. What Jesus offers as the eternal High Priest is the perfect sacrifice of Himself (see CCC 663-64).

Verse 13 is another allusion to Psalm 110:1, which the inspired writer already quoted in Hebrews 1:13. Significantly, each inspired writer of the Synoptic Gospels records Jesus quoting this line from Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:44, Mark 12:36, and Luke 20:43. St. Peter also quoted Psalm 110:1 in his address to the Jewish pilgrims to the Feast of Pentecost after the miracle of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in the Upper Room (see Acts 2:35). It is quoted again in Hebrews 1:13 and 10:13. Psalms 110:1 is a Messianic sign and appears a significant seven times in the New Testament.

Hebrews 10:13 reads, now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool (underlining added). Christ is “at rest” but vigilant. He is watching His enemies and interceding for His priestly people (Heb 4:14-16; 7:25; 9:24). His enemies are Satan and his evil demons who seek to snatch away the souls of men and women by tempting them to renounce Jesus’s eternal Kingdom in favor of earthly pleasures which cannot bring true happiness. Also counted among His enemies are the humans who reject Christ and oppose God’s divine plan for humanity’s salvation. In their rebellion, they become the sons and daughters of Satan instead of the sons and daughters of God. Christ’s enemies desire to corrupt the innocent into denying sin, seeking sinful temporal satisfaction, and perversely declaring what is good evil and what is evil good. The time will come when He will crush all His enemies under His feet.

Christ’s enemies include anyone who opposes God’s divine plan for humanity’s salvation, but there is also one chief enemy. God made a promise in Genesis 3:14-15 that the Redeemer-Messiah, born of “the woman,” would crush His enemy. That specific “woman” is Mary of Nazareth. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God cursed the serpent and prophesied to him the coming of the Redeemer of humanity:

Accursed be you of all animals wild and tame.  On your belly, you will go, and on dust, you will feed as long as you live.  I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [literally seed] and hers [literally her seed]; it [this indefinite Greek pronoun can mean “he,” meaning the “seed of the woman” will bruise [crush] your head, and you will strike its heel (NJB). “

To strike the heel” is a Semitic expression for “to do violence to.” In John 13:18, when speaking of His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, Jesus said, “I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me'” (emphasis added). “To crush the head” is a Semitic expression for “to strike a mortal blow;” to “raised the heel” is a Semitic expression for “to do violence.” Jesus will return in His Second Coming to strike the mortal blow against Satan and his forces of evil. St. Paul also promised that the faithful followers of Christ would see Satan crushed under their feet in Romans 16:17-20.

14 For by one offering, he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. […] 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.

This verse is the third time the inspired writer used the verb “has made perfect” or “has made complete” concerning Jesus’s saving works. He uses this verb in the perfect tense in the Letter to the Hebrews in 2:10, 5:9, and 7:28. He has also used the same verb three times, again in the perfect tense, alluding to the old Law and its institutions in Hebrews 7:19; 9:9; and 10:1.

However, in the case of the old Law and its required sacrifices and ritual purity restrictions, he used the verb in the negative sense. In the past, which to the inspired writer and his audience includes the thirty-odd years since Jesus’s Ascension, the Christ was “made perfect” in His sacrifice, but from that time on, He makes those sanctified by the gift of His sacrifice “perfect” and complete in their relationship to God. The inspired writer is returning to the prophecy of the New Covenant by Jeremiah in 31:31-34 in the late seventh/early sixth century BC. His point is, where there is complete forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any need for animal sacrifices and offerings for sin. Jesus Christ has conquered sin and eternal death, the devastating result of sin (2 Tim 1:10).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

GOSPEL

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

The Hope in the Return of Jesus Christ

24 “But in those days after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. 28 Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32 But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Our passage is from Jesus’s discourse on the turmoil that will precede the destruction of Jerusalem and His prophecies concerning His Second Coming. He begins by describing the breakdown of society followed by famine (Mk 13:7-8). Next, families will become divided, and the faithful persecuted (Mk 13:9-13). Finally, He prophesies the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (Mk 13:14). All these events took place within the lifetimes of most of the Apostles and disciples when the Jews revolted against Rome in AD 66 and massacred the Roman garrisons in Judea. The Romans responded by sending four legions to deal with the rebellion.  Forty years after Jesus’s Ascension, in AD 70, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and it was never rebuilt. The Jewish priest and historian Flavius Josephus, who was an eye-witness to the events, records that about a million Jews were sold into slavery and dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. The time for the necessity of the old Sinai Covenant liturgy and sacrifice had passed, and God was now present in the holy liturgy of sacrifice in the New Covenant banquet of the faithful and the transformed Toda (sacred communion meal of “Thanksgiving”) of the Eucharist (from Eucharistia, “Thanksgiving” in Greek).

After Jesus’s prophecy of the future tribulation and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, His discourse continued with the “after that tribulation” (verses 24-28) period. He spoke of another event and the altering of time itself, saying, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. In the traditional language of the prophets, Jesus uses the symbolism of cosmic events to describe the forceful intervention of God in humanity’s history.

The sun, moon, and stars recorded the passing of the seasons and the reckoning of time. In this passage, Jesus refers to the event of His Second Coming when Christ the King will return in glory to collect “his elect” in the Resurrection of the Just and act as humanity’s Divine Judge in the Last/Final Judgment. Notice Jesus uses the language of Daniel 7:13-14 to describe His Parousia, a term that in Jesus’s time referred to the return of a king or ruler to his vassal people to judge their obedience during his absence. In the 6th century BC, the prophet Daniel had a vision of the divine Messiah who looked like a human being.

Daniel saw one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14).

However, Jesus might also be referring to His Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill and indwell the Church when He gathers His elect from the four corners of the earth into His Kingdom. Some scholars hold this interpretation based on verse 30:  

Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place (emphasis added; also see Mt 23:36; Lk 21:37).

This verse might also be a warning concerning His earlier prophecy about the tribulation associated with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in verses 7-14, an event that took place within the lifetimes of most of His disciples.


Mark 13:28-31 ~ The Lesson of the Fig Tree

28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.  When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.  30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Jesus uses the symbolism of the fig tree again (see Mk 11:20-25), but in this case, it is the sign of what is coming instead of a symbol for Israel’s judgment frequently used by the Old Testament prophets (Hos 2:12-15; Jer 8:13) and by Jesus in Matthew 21:18-21, Mark 11:12-14, and Luke 13:6-9.

Jesus warns His disciples that just as leaves on a fig tree appear in the spring as a sign of the coming of summer when these things He foretold begin to happen, they will know that the events He prophesied are starting to take place, but this will all happen according to God’s time.

30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

This verse probably refers back to Jesus’s description of the destruction of Jerusalem at the beginning of His discourse in 13:1-23. It was an event that took place in AD 70, and there were those of His generation still alive to witness it.  Also, people in every generation face divine judgment at the end of the struggles of their earthly lives in their Individual/Particular Judgments after death (CCC 1021-22).

In verse 32, Jesus said, 

“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

It is impossible to predict the exact timing of Jesus’s Second Coming because only God the Father knows when it will happen. Jesus warns that it will come suddenly, as in the event of the Great Flood in Genesis (Mt 24:37-41). The warning is for the faithful to remain vigilant and keep our souls in a state of purity in the Sacrament of Reconciliation so we will be ready for the event that will determine our eternal destiny.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

SOURCE: The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University: This website is a service of the Catholic Studies Centre at Saint Louis University, Matthew Baugh, SJ, Director; John Foley, SJ, Editor; Eleonore Stump, Coordinator; JC McCollum, Webmaster
SCRIPTURE IN DEPTH

Preaching the Lectionary

by Reginald H. Fuller

The Son of man comes from heaven to earth on the clouds with power and great glory.


THE WORD EMBODIED

The End Times

by John Kavanaugh, SJ

Since we do not know the hour or the day, let this be the hour, let this be the day, let this be the time that we live and die.


HISTORICAL CULTURAL CONTEXT

Planning For The End

by John J. Pilch

In the light of the data from paleopathology (the study of ancient disease), it would seem Jesus expected the political end of Israel much sooner than it actually occurred.


LET THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK

End-Time: Housekeeping

by Dennis Hamm, SJ

Followers of Jesus will be supported by the Holy Spirit, the gospel will reach all nations, and there is a heap of housekeeping to be done in the time between.


SPIRITUALITY OF THE READINGS

Getting Ready for Getting Ready

by John Foley, SJ

Our readings contain a few grains of hope.


GLANCING THOUGHTS

Winning and Losing

by Eleonore Stump

Christ did not lose on the cross, did he? He won.


THE PERSPECTIVE OF JUSTICE

A More Human Life

by Gerald Darring

More than half of the countries of the world have used violence against their own citizens in the form of torture, brutality, and summary executions.


Ideas for General Intercessions

by Joe Milner

Ideas designed to be starting points for the prayers of a particular community of faith.

SOURCE: The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University: This website is a service of the Catholic Studies Centre at Saint Louis University, Matthew Baugh, SJ, Director; John Foley, SJ, Editor; Eleonore Stump, Coordinator; JC McCollum, Webmaster
LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

We Will Never Have Answers to All Our Questions in This Life

DANIEL 12:1-4, 13  As we face recovery, we would probably like to believe that life will never again be as painful as it was before recovery. That, however, cannot be guaranteed. Prior to the resurrection at the end of the age, there will be a time of unparalleled suffering for God’s people, and between now and then, there will be consistent tribulation for God’s people (see also Acts 14:22). While we may have faith, courage, and wisdom during that time, we will never have answers to all our questions in this life. However, we have the assurance that we will live forever with God and understand everything in the end.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

Realizing that God is With Us

Psalm16:7-11As we seek through prayer and meditation to improve our relationship with God, we will find in his Word not only peace of mind and heart but also good counsel that will keep us from falling into sin. Knowing that God is with us and that he will never abandon us should be a constant source of joy and peace. An important principle of recovery is realizing that God is with us—here and now—and that he promises to be with us through all eternity.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

Daily Preparation and Action

MARK 13:21-37 Jesus did not reveal when the end would come, but this should motivate us to remain alert and watchful from now until the end. As we are unsure of the future of our world, we are also uncertain about the timing and difficulties we will face in recovery. We are never completely recovered; we are always in recovery. We will experience total victory only after Jesus has returned to make us into new people. Preparation for his return must be made one day at a time. We cannot calculate the day of his return and plan to change just before he comes. Our daily preparation and actions are important keys to our spiritual health and recovery.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

Watching for His Coming

MARK 13:24-37

Coming to the grand denouement of human history, Jesus prophesies His personal return by giving the disciples the sign and seal of His coming. The sign will be unnatural disasters—not earthquakes and famine, but eclipses of sun and moon, falling of stars, and shaking of the heavens that defy human prediction or explanation. Astrologers and watchers of UFOs try to make a science of changes and disturbances in the heavens, but their efforts do not touch the prophecy of Jesus. When the sign of His coming is given, it will defy scientists and pseudoscientists, astronomers and astrologers, but there will be no way to misread its purpose. Even unbelievers “will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26). To the disciples who avoided panic, endured persecution, and fled from disaster, Christ’s promise is fulfilled in His Parousia. Power and glory belong to Him and to those who know Him and share the fellowship of His sufferings. As proof, He will send His angels to gather His elect from the four winds in a sweep that leaves no corner of heaven or earth untouched.

Although the immediate reference to “His elect” means the Jews, the coming of the Son of Man carries a timely message of hope for the Roman Christians to whom Mark writes. Jesus assures them that God is in ultimate control of the universe, of which Caesar is only a part. Furthermore, He assures them that their faith will be rewarded with salvation, and finally, that they will be among those raptured from the four winds to share the power and glory of Christ. Faithful Christians, under persecution in every age, discover the promise for themselves. Even when the tribulation is small and personal, rather than great and universal, Jesus’ assurance of His coming is a daily claim.

In expectation of His “take heed” answer to the disciples’ inquiry about the time and the signs for the destruction of the temple, Jesus answers by two parables. One is the Parable of the Fig Tree, which He uses to seal the prophetic signs that He has given. No training in horticulture is needed to know that the leafy, tender branches of the fig tree forecast the coming of summer. In the same manner, anyone can see the signs that Jesus has given and know that the Son of Man is coming, but not until all of the signs are fulfilled, like the ripening of the fig tree.

No one can watch a fig tree grow, but never let the process be mistaken for the lack of fulfillment. As surely as the maturing of the fig tree predicts summer, most surely will the signs of Jesus’ prediction bring His coming. With unmixed and unbridled confidence, He speaks, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (v. 31). Throughout the centuries, this promise of the permanence of Christ’s words has sustained Christians in time of trouble. Jesus Himself has just come through a time when His enemies attacked from every angle, trying to trap Him in His words. They failed, and so will all others who try to find a flaw in anything He says. Jesus has won His case. Having proven that His words are true, He can now say with equal assurance that they are eternally sure.

Jesus knows that the signs of His coming are sure, but the timing is not. In what must be a sequel to the Parable of the Vineyard, He relates the truth of timing to a homeowner who takes an extended trip, leaving his property, his authority, and his work in the hands of servants. This time, a new duty is added for servanthood. Doorkeepers are expected to remain constantly alert for the return of the Master at any hour. If they are caught sleeping upon His return, they betray their trust to Him, just as definitely as unjust servants who would forfeit the property, misuse their master’s authority, or fail to do his work.

“Gatekeepers” has become a popular term for persons in key positions of leadership in organizations and communities. As the symbol suggests, there are persons who are on constant watch to protect social values that are entrusted to them. Sometimes the ” is a formal authority and sometimes it is a person who wields quiet, but powerful, influence. Nothing significant happens, however, without the approval of the “gatekeepers.” Lyndon Johnson, one of the most successful of Presidents in getting his legislation through Congress, adopted the principle of “gatekeepers” as his strategy. Not wanting to waste his time and energy with peripheral people, he sought out the “gatekeepers” who were at the center of power, concentrated upon them, and raffled the votes to support his recommendations.

To be a “doorkeeper” or a “gatekeeper,” on diligent watch for the coming of the Son of Man, is one of the most solemn duties in the kingdom of God. Someone has to keep watch so that others can do their work. Executives in leadership roles carry this responsibility—reading the signs, interpreting the meaning, putting out warnings, setting the direction, and announcing the coming of the Master. What an awesome privilege! Jesus charges the disciples with the duty of “doorkeeping,” making them responsible for the household of faith. If they fall asleep so that the household misses His coming, God will hold them responsible.

The “Olivet Discourse” is finished. Intricacies of the prophetic past, present, and future are still being unraveled. “Take heed” to avoid panic, endure persecution, escape judgment, and watch for the coming of the Son of Man came to factual fulfillment in the “little apocalypse,” when Jerusalem was devastated in A.D. 70. Today, the same signs and warnings point toward the “great apocalypse” when the cycle of human history makes its final turn. No one knows when the time will be, but Jesus has us in mind when He speaks the valedictory warning from the Mount of Olives, “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (v. 37).

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.

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MARK 13:21–27

21. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:

22. For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

23. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

24. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,

25. And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

26. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

27. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

ANNOTATED INDEX

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

COMMENTARY

THEOPHYLACT. After that the Lord had finished all that concerned Jerusalem, He now speaks of the coming of Antichrist, saying, Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not. But when He says, then, think not that it means immediately after these things are fulfilled about Jerusalem; as Matthew also says after the birth of Christ, In those days came John the Baptist; (Matt. 3:1) does he mean immediately after the birth of Christ? No, but he speaks indefinitely and without precision. So also here, then may be taken to mean not when Jerusalem shall be made desolate, but about the time of the coming of Antichrist. It goes on: For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. For many shall take upon them the name of Christ, so as to seduce even the faithful.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 19) For then shall Satan be unchained, and work through Antichrist in all his power, wonderfully indeed, but falsely. But a doubt is often raised whether the Apostle said Signs and lying wonders, because he is to deceive mortal senses, by phantoms, so as to appear to do what he does not, or because those wonders themselves, even though true, are to turn men aside to lies, because they will not believe that any power but a Divine power could do them, being ignorant of the power of Satan, especially when he shall have received such power as he never had before. But for whichever reason it is said, they shall be deceived by those signs and wonders who deserve to be deceived.

GREGORY. (v. Greg Hom. in Ezech. lib. i. 9) Why however is it said with a doubt if it were possible, when the Lord knows beforehand what is to be? One of two things is implied; that if they are elect, it is not possible; and if it is possible, they are not elect. (non potest, ap. Cat.) This doubt therefore in our Lord’s discourse expresses the trembling in the mind of the elect. And He calls them elect, because He sees that they will persevere in faith and good works; for those who are chosen to remain firm are to be tempted to fall by the signs of the preachers of Antichrist.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Some however refer this to the time of the Jewish captivity, where many, declaring themselves to be Christs, drew after them crowds of deluded persons; but during the siege of the city there was no Christian to whom the Divine exhortation, not to follow false teachers, could apply. Wherefore it is better to understand it of heretics, who, coming to oppose the Church, pretended to be Christs; the first of whom was Simon Magus, but that last one, greater than the rest, is Antichrist. It goes on: But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

AUGUSTINE. (Epist. 78) For He did not only foretel to His disciples the good things which He would give to His saints and faithful ones, but also the woes in which this world was to abound, that we might look for our reward at the end of the world with more confidence, from feeling the woes in like manner announced as about to precede the end of the world.

THEOPHYLACT. But after the coming of Antichrist, the frame of the world shall be altered and changed, for the stars shall be obscured on account of the abundance of the brightness of Christ. Wherefore it goes on: But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; and the stars of heaven shall fall.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) For the stars in the day of judgment shall appear obscure, not by any lessening of their own light, but because of the brightness of the true light, that is, of the most high Judge coming upon them; although there is nothing to prevent its being taken to mean, that the sun and moon with all the other heavenly bodies then for a time are really to lose their light, just as we are told was the case with the sun at the time of our Lord’s Passion. But after the day of judgment, when there shall be a new sky and a new earth, then shall happen what Isaiah says: Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold. (Isa. 30:26) There follows, And the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

THEOPHYLACT. That is, the Angelic virtues shall be astonished, seeing that such great things are done, and that their fellow-servants are judged.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) What wonder is it that men should be troubled at this judgment, the sight of which makes the very Angelic powers to tremble? What will the stories of the house do when the pillars shake? What does the shrub of the wilderness undergo, when the cedar of paradise is moved?

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or else, the sun shall be darkened, at the coldness of their hearts, as in the winter time. And the moon shall not give her light with serenity, in this time of quarrel, and the stars of heaven shall fail in their light, when the seed of Abraham shall all but disappear, for to it they are likened. (Gen. 22:17) And the powers of heaven shall be stirred up to the wrath of vengeance, when they shall be sent by the Son of Man at His coming, of whose Advent it is said, And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory, He, that is, who first came down like rain into the fleece of Gideon in all lowliness.

AUGUSTINE. (Epist. cxcix. 11.) For since it was said by the Angels to the Apostles, He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven, (Acts 1:11) rightly do we believe that He will come not only in the same body, but on a cloud, since He is to come as He went away, and a cloud received Him as He was going.

THEOPHYLACT. But they shall see the Lord as the Son of Man, that is, in the body, for that which is seen is body.

AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. i. 13) For the vision of the Son of Man is shewn even to the bad, but the vision of the form of God to the pure in heart alone, for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8) And because the wicked cannot see the Son of God, as He is in the form of God, equal to the Father, and at the same time both just and wicked are to see Him as Judge of the quick and dead, before Whom they shall be judged, it was necessary that the Son of Man should receive power to judge. Concerning the execution of which power, there is immediately added, And then shall he send his angels.

THEOPHYLACT. Observe that Christ sends the Angels as well as the Father; where then are they who say that He is not equal to the Father? For the Angels go forth to gather together the faithful, who are chosen, that they may be carried into the air to meet Jesus Christ. Wherefore it goes on: And gather together his elect from the four winds.

PSEUDO-JEROME. As corn winnowed from the threshing-floor of the whole earth.

BEDE. By the four winds, He means the four parts of the world, the east, the west, the north, and the south. And lest any one should think that the elect are to be gathered together only from the four edges of the world, and not from the midland regions as well as the borders, He has fitly added, From the uttermost part of earth, to the uttermost part of heaven, that is, from the extremities of the earth to its utmost bounds, where the circle of the heavens appears to those who look from afar to rest upon the boundaries of the earth. No one therefore shall be elect in that day who remains behind and does not meet the Lord in the air, when He comes to judgment. The reprobate also shall come to judgment, that when it is finished they may be scattered abroad and perish from before the face of God.

Mark 13:28–31

28. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:

29. So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

30. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

31. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

COMMENTARY

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Under the example of a tree the Lord gave a pattern of the end, saying, Now learn a parable of the fig tree, when her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near. So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

THEOPHYLACT. As if He had said, As when the fig tree puts forth its leaves, summer follows at once, so also after the woes of Antichrist, at once, without an interval, shall be the coming of Christ, who will be to the just as summer after winter, but to sinners, winter after summer.

AUGUSTINE. (Epist. 119, 11) All that is said by the three Evangelists concerning the Advent of our Lord, if diligently compared together and examined, will perchance be found to belong to His daily coming in His body, that is, the Church, except those places where that last coming is so promised, as if it were approaching; for instance in the last part of the discourse according to Matthew, the coming itself is clearly expressed, where it is said, When the Son of Man shall come in his glory. (Matt. 25:31) For what does he refer to in the words, when ye shall see these things come to pass, but those things which He has mentioned above, amongst which it is said, And then ye shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds. The end therefore shall not be then, but then it shall be near at hand. Or are we to say, that not all those things which are mentioned above are to be taken in, but only some of them, that is, leaving out these words, Then shall ye see the Son of man coming; for that shall be the end itself, and not its approach only. But Matthew has declared that it is to be received without exception, saying, When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. That which is said above must therefore be taken thus; And he shall send his angels, and gather together the elect from the four winds; that is, He shall collect His elect from the four winds of heaven, which He does in the whole of the last hour, coming in His members as in clouds.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) This fruitbearing of the fig tree may also be understood to mean the state of the synagogue, which was condemned to everlasting barrenness, because when the Lord came, it had no fruits of righteousness in those who were then unfaithful. (Rom. 11:25) But the Apostle has said, that when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in, all Israel shall be saved. What means this, but that the tree, which has been long barren, shall then yield the fruit, which it had withheld? When this shall happen, doubt not that a summer of true peace is at hand.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or else, the leaves which come forth are words now spoken, the summer at hand is the day of Judgment, in which every tree shall shew what it had within it, deadness for burning, or greenness to be planted with the tree of life. There follows: Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till these things be done.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) By generation He either means the whole race of mankind, or specially the Jews.

THEOPHYLACT. Or else, This generation shall not pass away, that is, the generation of Christians, until all things be fulfilled, which were spoken concerning Jerusalem and the coming of Antichrist; for He does not mean the generation of the Apostles, for the greater part of the Apostles did not live up to the destruction of Jerusalem. But He says this of the generation of Christians, wishing to console His disciples, lest they should believe that the faith should fail at that time; for the immoveable elements shall first fail, before the words of Christ fail; wherefore it is added, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) The heaven which shall pass away is not the ethereal or starry heaven, but the heaven where is the air. For wheresoever the water of the judgment could reach, there also, according to the words of the blessed Peter, the fire of judgment shall reach. (2 Pet. 3) But the heaven and the earth shall pass away in that form which they now have, but in their essence they shall last without end.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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