Today’s Gospel passage, Mark 13:24-32, on first sight, presents us with something of a challenge. Apocalyptic language is a little alien to many of us and something to which we probably don’t pay a great deal of attention, unless it is forced upon us. As a student in the 80s I often passed a man at Oxford Circus wearing a sandwich board proclaiming, ‘The End is Nigh’. Whilst he was easily dismissed as an eccentric, just one of many in central London, something niggled me. What if he is right? Some biblical commentators suggest that Mark presents Jesus as countering the apocalyptic culture of his day. Whilst he quotes the standard apocalyptic images, Jesus offers his hearers a new perspective on the ‘end times’.
Perhaps the second section of the Gospel passage, where Jesus introduces imagery that is both more subtle and potentially more accessible for us, can be of help. Jesus speaks of a tree in bud, a fig tree. The fig tree bears fruit when the time is right. It isn’t forced to bear fruit out of season. So too with Christ’s second coming, this will happen when the time is right. We cannnot hasten its coming. All we can do is live in readiness, open and alert to Christ among us in our daily lives, believing that ‘he is near, at the very gates.’
Image 1 Hubble Space Images
Image 2 © Turvey Abbey