Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Penultimate Sunday of the Liturgical Year

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time  
Dn 12:1-3
Ps 16 5-11
Mk 13:24-32

The apocalyptic tenor of today's readings and Gospel tells us that the end of the liturgical year is approaching.  Next Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King, marks the end of the year. The following Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, begins a new Church year.  The Gospel of Mark will be replaced by Luke on Sundays.  Year I will replace Year II in the daily readings.

Apocalyptic is a genre that strikes fear in the hearts of preachers, bizarre thinking in the minds of millennialists, and perplexity in most of the rest of the faithful.   Apocalyptic is many things.   Ancient Near Eastern science fiction is not one of those things.  Apocalyptic is a literature of hope.  It is a literature of hope that emerged during times of persecution.  The imagery is odd and, at times, plainly weird.  It is, however, neither bizarre nor odd to those for whom it was written.  Apocalyptic was a means of engendering hope in those suffering persecution while hiding the message from the persecutors.  Even today some of the symbolism and meaning in apocalyptic remains hidden from interpreters and commentators.

One of the unhealthy ways of meditating on readings such as these readings that describe those who will be saved and those who won't, is to assume oneself among the saved, then to make a list of family, friends, and co-religionists who will be among the elect. Then make another list of co-workers, the date who stood you up for the prom, a particularly unhelpful family member, and those whose religious thought is different from yours, and assign them among those not destined to be saved.  Dante, of course, created a masterpiece out of such thinking, but most of us are not Dante.  

The reading from Daniel appears toward the end of the book.  It is less obscure than much of what precedes it.  But, for the time it was radical.  It was radical in its description of the resurrection of the dead and, even more radical with the mention of life everlasting. 

Like the reading from Daniel, the Gospel, taken from what is called, Jesus' Eschatological Discourse, is not warm, cuddly, or consoling. The images are terrifying.  In the preceding verses, Jesus described the earthly manifestations of the tribulation: reports of wars, earthquake, famine and a general breakdown of society.  It reads like the headlines in today's papers.  In today's reading Jesus details the cosmic signs that will follow the earthly chaos.  The cosmic signs also sound as if they were taken from contemporary headlines. The earthly and cosmic signs of Jesus coming have been happening for millennia. They will continue to happen until time ceases to exist. 

Just as the Church repeats the liturgical cycles from Advent to the Feast of Christ the King, the signs of end of times continue to cycle.  Thus we see the problem of time as we understand it.  Our time and God's time are not at all the same.  The first words of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament are: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  The penultimate verse of Revelation the final book of the New Testament is: "Surely I am coming soon."  All of Scripture is contained within a parenthesis of time: the beginning of time and the end of time.  God's time not ours.

God transcends both cosmic time, the rhythms of nature, the cycle of days and nights, of seasons and epochs.  But He also transcends and transforms historical time, the only concept of time with which we are comfortable, the form of time we have superimposed over cosmic time.  Thus, most of us are preparing for Christmas 2015.  A birthday may have passed or it may be on the horizon. Tomorrow afternoon is already booked.  The date on which one will die is a mystery.

Prognostication has been a fact of life since ancient times.  Nostradamus. Tarot cards and other pagan divinations.  The Farmer's Almanac. The Weather Channel (highly suspect prognostications).  And the new religion of global warming.  We want to know the how, the why, and the when.  It is not for us to know.  "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  Most of us will never be comfortable with that saying. 

The alleluia verse gave critical advice. 
"Be vigilant at all times. 
And pray that you have the strength
to stand before the Son of Man."
Went down to State College, PA for a few days last week.  The proximate reason for the trip was to give a talk at a CCRC (Continued Care Retirement Center) where my former roommate's daughter is administrator.  The talk was titled, "Fun Fun Fun 'Til the Staties Take the License Away."  It looked at the difficult question of aging and driving, particularly the problem of dementing disorders and driving.  The less proximate reason for the trip was to spend some time with Al and Karen and to show my niece, an alumna class of '81, the changes in campus since she was lack back some twenty-five years ago.  

The weather was spectacular.  On Saturday and Sunday the four of us wandered campus.  While I enjoyed the wandering, company of others is not the ideal situation for photography.  Monday was a different story.  I was alone.  Spent four hours on campus with the camera.  Below are some of the results.  I will be editing for quite a long time and post-processing even longer.  

Most of the photos are a study of Old Main, my favorite building on the face of the earth.  It was a very different building when my dad graduated in 1927.  A fire in the then small bell tower resulted in the building being dismantled and the stones reassembled into a new building with the addition of the front portico and a much taller and more graceful bell tower.  

These two are from the top of the Pugh Street parking garage.  I took a few during the summer but the leaves obscured most of the building.  

This is one of my favorite views from the southeast side of the mall just at the top of a short flight of steps near the College of Health and Human Development.  

 A black and white from the same perspective in landscape orientation. 

The sundial in front of Old Main is about eight feet tall.  It is visible in the black and white.  Not at all impressive.  However, shooting through the top of the sundial gave an interesting effect.  Watching me get up after practically lying down on the grass was a tad comical.  I had to think about it for a bit.  Fortunately the kiddos were in class and there were few witnesses to my potential humiliation. 

A close up of the columns.

I spent some time in the arboretum.  Will post more of those later.  However, I spent some time playing with the post-processing to create something a bit more whimsical.  There is a bit of an Asian silk aspect to it. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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