Without fail, from time to time, at least since about the year 1000 AD, self-appointed prophets of doom have predicted the imminent end of the world. Those who are more easily affected by predictions of doom lose the last shreds of their peace of mind. To me and, hopefully, to most, if not all of you, this anxiety is uttered nonsense and totally groundless.
If we scratch below the surface of the apocalyptic genre of the Book of Daniel (12:1-3) and our passage from the Gospel of Mark (13:24-32), we find good reasons to allay any trace of anxiety from our hearts and stay the course marked out for us by the Lord until our promised and assured glorification in heaven will take place.
In the Book of Daniel, we read: “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
Let this phrase be the guiding light for the rest of our life on this earth, i.e., until the day the Lord will call us home to himself. A truly wise believer must seek wisdom that is knowledge of the true meaning of life. And as disciples of Christ we have direct access to the fount of Wisdom. Indeed, Wisdom is personified in Jesus Christ, the light of the world, the one who came down from heaven, took flesh like ours to reveal to us the true meaning of life. This revelation realized so personally, so directly, so physically as to be flesh like ours, is of crucial importance to every single one of us in order to stay the course while living with a sense of purpose and with limitless hope.
Every time we pray, every time we draw close to Christ, we converse with Wisdom;we open our minds and hearts to his teachings (Bible readings and homilies); we contemplate his actions in the Gospel readings, orwe just rest secure, quiet, trustingly in his presence; we absorb his wisdom and we are reshaped by his Spirit into quasi accurate replicas of him, our Divine Master, to the point that we will begin to reason, think, plan, say, do and react the way he would.
In other words: through our prayer of conversation, of listening, of imitation and of quiet, silent contemplation in his presence we are made wise, we learn the meaning of life. We absorb his light and, in turn, we become light for many others.
“But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor ofthe firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
In the context of these readings, we can, now, assess how much of Jesus’ wisdom we have absorbed; how brightly we are shining or how much darkness, anxiety and confusion still surround us and affect our way of reasoning and of making decisions. And here is a most enviable outcome: the wise resist any temptation to be disquieted, anxious and restless.
They keep in mind the following two readings:
Romans 8:31-35 “What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us.Who will condemn? It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”
The wise have a sense of purpose that is unshakeable and on which they remain zeroed in: “I give you a new commandment: love one another the way I loved you…” (John 13:34)
The wise can sort things out according to their value in the eyes of God. Relativism, as in “anything goes,” as in “one choice is as good as the next” so common in this world of ours, is constantly exposed by them as insanity and as foolishness to be pitied. The wise can see God’s Providence and generous hand even amid the worst tragedies that can befall a person, a family, a nation. The wise, therefore, feel the compelling need to thank the Lord at all times, even when most people would curse their fate and ask God, angrily: “Why me?” The wise are deeply convinced that even the bad things in life are happening within the mysterious plan of God for the ultimate good of every single one of us, of our community, of our nation, of the whole world.
So, if we were to summarize in a nutshell what the wise are all about we could say, that the wise learn quickly the lesson of the fig tree. “When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.” The wise live each day anchored in the Lord, thus they can see the sure signs of life where most people see still desolation and destruction, hopelessness and death.
Hence, here is a question for each one of us: “Presently, at this juncture of my life, how wise am I?”
Are we basking in enough light from the Lord to be able to sort things out and focus on those values that will last into eternity?
Do we shed enough light to be able to offer to our family, to our group, co-workers, community, Church a sense of purpose and direction?
Are we sustained by unwavering hope or do we sway one way and the other?
May we learn quickly the lesson of the fig tree: “When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.” The Son of Man is near; he is actually with us already in so many comforting ways. One glorious day, he will bring us into the bosom of the Holy Trinity, and all will be well.