As the Church’s Liturgical year ebbs to a close, the first Reading and the Gospel this Sunday focus on the end of time, (eschatology). Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew that he will be with His Church until the end of time, (Mt 28:20). What does the end of time mean? Is it the annihilation of the things that are or the transformation of time into eternity? Is it the gratification of certain parts of creation, and the reprobation of the rest? What becomes of us at the end of our earthly existence? These are pertinent questions that burrow the human mind.
Apocalyptic literature attempts at grappling with the above legitimate human concerns. It uses imagery to describe the future. Apocalyptic writings often arise in the context of oppression. It encourages those who are experiencing persecution not to give up hope; for though the moment may be difficult and painful, it will not last for ever. Evil will not triumph over good because God is still in the driver’s seat.
The first Reading is taken from the book of Prophet Daniel, (Dan 12:1-3), which is the main apocalyptic book in the Old Testament. The book of Revelation in the New Testament is influenced by the book of Prophet Daniel. The book of Daniel is the first book in the bible to prophesy on the resurrection of the dead. The Jews gradually became aware of the revelation about life after death. The initial belief of the Jews was that their good deeds helped their nation to be strong, however, their lives came to nothing after death. In the book of Prophet Isaiah, we read, “For the dead cannot give you thanks, death cannot give you praise, those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your kindness. The living, the living alone can give you thanks and praise, as I do.” (Is 38:18-19).
However, the Jewish people gained insight into life after death during the reign of King Antiochus Epiphanes 175 -164 BC. King Antiochus persecuted the Jews by outlawing the worship of Yahweh. He forbade the Jews making sacrifices to Yahweh and criminalised the observance of Sabbath. He also erected numerous gods in Palestine and enthroned Zeus in the Jewish temple. His abominable actions enraged many Jews who stood up in opposition to his regime.
Judas Maccabeus organised an armed revolt against the king. During the Maccabean struggle, which eventually led to the overthrow of King Antiochus Epiphanes, a considerable number of Jewish people lost their lives in battle. The Israelites realised that their martyrs died for a higher cause and their death could not be in vain. Hence, the acknowledgement that, “the souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the unwise they appear to be dead. Their going is held as a disaster; it seems that they lose everything by departing from us, but they are in peace.” (Wis 3:1-3).
Judas Maccabeus and his soldiers prayed to God to forgive the sins of some of their fellow soldiers who were not in the state of grace when they were slain in battle. Maccabeus also took up a collection from among his soldiers which he sent to Jerusalem for a sin offering for the deceased soldiers, (2Mac 12:38-46). Judas Maccabeus performed these acts on behalf of the fallen soldiers because of his belief in life after death.
According to the book of Daniel, at the end of time, Archangel Michael will appear as defender of God’s people, and the dead shall arise, some to everlasting joy and others to everlasting disgrace. Those who shall arise to everlasting joy are those who have washed their garments white in the blood of the lamb, (Rev 7:14). And those who shall arise to everlasting disgrace are those who have made a fundamental choice for the Evil One. That is, those who have sold their souls to the Devil.
The Gospel, (Mk 13:24-32), presented us with the scenario of the second coming of Christ. Though we do not know the exact date and time of His second coming, none-the less, revelation has made it explicit to us that Jesus Christ will be coming again with power and glory as universal king because God the Father has been pleased to accord Him “all authorities in heaven and earth,” (Mt 28:18). Hence, it is through Him, in Him, and with Him that everything shall be reconciled ultimately to the Father in the Spirit. And when all things have been reconciled to the Father, then God through Christ in the Spirit shall become all in all, (1Cor 15:28).
We are grateful to Jesus who is our resurrection and our life; through His merit, when our earthly dwelling comes to an end, an eternal dwelling is made ready for us in heaven!
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp