Readings: Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14; Mark 13:24-32
Since All Saints Day we’ve been hearing more and more from the Book of Revelation, The Apocalypse, both at Mass and in the Divine Office. Our weekday Gospels have been dwelling on things coming to an end and today’s Gospel had been called the Apocalyptic Discourse of Mark’s Gospel.
Apocalypse and revelation mean the same thing: not the end of the world but what we don’t know being unveiled. There’s a nuance in the word “revelation”: what is “un-veiled” is also “re-veiled”. What do I mean by that? What we don’t know, we may not be able to know directly. It is veiled in symbolic language. At one and the same time it is uncovered–as having meaning–but hidden again under indirect language.
Some Christians would “decode” that language to know what happens next. Unfortunately, symbolic language doesn’t work like that.
How often in my life time has the end of the world been forecast? Some folks ditch everything to gather at some precise spot–to be picked up by an alien spacecraft or the angels of God–but nothing happens. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.
I conclude it’s not important to know. This isn’t about dates or data but about our relationship to God.
Well over twenty years ago the reality of being about half way through my life struck me strongly. The realization was a beautiful moment, conveying the intuition that there was so much more for us human beings than imaginable in life as we know it. In my naivete, I resolved to prepare for my death over the next forty years or so left to me. A decade later, my mother was dying and she taught me something: death will only come as a surprise. I can’t prepare for it. Death proves what my life has been about.
It will bring its pain of separation and sorrow, it’s physical distress but if I don’t wrestle it to conform to my expectations–my ever so myopic expectations–death may surprise me as a friend. Death, my personal end of the world, is no more permanent than a visitor. The “end” is a passage from here to there.
I can’t be the only person who has, time and again, been surprised by God. Is that what revelation is? Can I still be surprised by God?