On this, the second to last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church presents us with readings which orient our hearts and minds towards the end times. As we race towards the conclusion of another liturgical year we are invited to lift our gaze from the here and now and ponder for a while the world that is to come. The demands of family life or parish life can often create in us a spiral of busyness which continually fixes our attention on immediate and short-term tasks. In these last few days of the Church’s liturgical year let’s take some quality time to look up and ask ourselves how is my life’s trajectory as regards the final destiny of my soul. Does my life truly reflect a fervent anticipation of Christ’s second coming?
In this section of Mark Ch. 13 Our Lord is close to His passion and death. Despite the extraordinary anguish He must have experienced in anticipation of this horror He still gives his disciples a teaching of hope and reassurance. He reminds them that one day He will return again in glory. Kingdoms of this world, powers and dominions come and go, even ‘heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away’ (v. 31). Many scripture scholars agree that St. Mark was recalling these words of encouragement as the Christian community (probably in Rome) was in the midst of a bitter persecution. Each subsequent generation of believers who find themselves in the throes of turmoil and strife must take these words of Christ to heart. He will never forsake his own body – the Church. Allow these words of encouragement to speak into your present worries and concerns whether they be within you’re your marriage or family, your parish, diocese or even the universal Church. The so called ‘summer of shame’ has brought to the Body of Christ perhaps even more damage – through the shame and anger felt by the faithful towards their own shepherds – than anything Emperor Nero could muster.
Regardless of how we live out our spousal relationship in this life, as married, celibate or single people, the hope we have in Jesus Christ and the promises He made to us should permeate every fibre of our bones. The anticipation of Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time is the fulfilment of all our longing and desiring. St. John Paul II reminds us that Jesus’ return is the “definitive fulfilment of the aspirations of all human beings, to whom Christ addresses his message: it is the fullness of the good that the human heart desires beyond the limits of all that can be its portion in earthly life; it is the greatest fullness of God endowing man with the gift of grace” (TOB 79:7).
It is during the times of deepest strife and darkness when these truths need to be proclaimed with greater zeal than ever. We recall with heavy hearts that at the crucifixion of Jesus only one twelfth of the Apostolic College was present. The other eleven – perhaps following St. Peter’s lead – had all fled and were hidden away. Only St. John remained under the protection and guidance of Our Blessed Mother. It strikes me that in times of trial and persecution to the Body of Christ the leadership can frequently fail through the gravest possible abdication of responsibility. A remnant of tired and anguished – yet faithful disciples remain, seeking refuge under the pieced breast of Mary.
It is to this group of hardy folk that we must look to protect and encourage. Christ’s comforting words of hope and peace fall like a healing balm on weary minds and hearts. In the darkest hour of abandonment, when the faithful endure the Golgotha shadow, we must all look towards the eschatological experience. Christ’s assurance of the beatific vision, when we will one day see him face-to-face will come sooner that we know. The ‘Great Mystery’ of spousal love which we have all laboured to live by in this present life will one day be revealed completely in all its glory. ‘That mystery hidden from eternity in the Father, a mystery that has in time been revealed in Christ to be fulfilled unceasingly by the work of the Holy Spirit”  will one day be a vision we will all behold with our own eyes. And so in the midst of this present ecclesial storm let us be fixed on this hope, for it is a hope that will never deceive us.
 TOB 67:5
Fr. David Marsden was ordained to the priesthood in 2002 for the British-Irish Province of the Sacred Heat Fathers, (SCJ) He is currently studying for his doctorate in Rome and recently worked as a clinical psychologist and Formation Tutor at the seminary of St. Mary’s College, Oscott, Birmingham, England. He completed TOB I in November 2016, TOB II in August 2017 and is planning to attend TOB III in January 2019.