Year B 33rd Sunday: Mark 13,24-32

13:24 But in those days, after that time of distress,
the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light,
13:25 the stars will come falling out of the sky
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
13:26 And then they will see the Son of man
coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
13:27 And then he will send the angels to gather his elect from the four winds,
from the ends of the world to the ends of the sky.
13:28 'Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple
and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.
13:29 So with you when you see these things happening:
know that he is near, right at the gates.
13:30 In truth I tell you, before this generation has passed away
all these things will have taken place.
13:31 Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
13:32 'But as for that day or hour,
nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son;
no one but the Father.


This piece of text takes part of the so-called Apocalyptic Sermon of Jesus, told in the 13th chapter of Mark's Gospel. The occasion for this sermon was a cry of admiration of four of Jesus' disciples, 'Master, look at the size of those stones! Look at the size of those buildings!' Then Jesus announced that all would be destroyed. Frightened the disciples asked, 'When?' (13:1-4). Instead of answering this question Jesus spoke about the way how to keep yourself upright in such fearful circumstances. He enumerated even much more disasters which could happen. How can we survive such cruel times? By keeping tight to the words Jesus has spoken to us (13:5-32).

At the end, Jesus answers the first question of the disciples, 'When?' 'Nobody knows. Even the Son doesn't know. Only the Father himself' (vs.32). But for all, let your concern be, keep tight to the words you received from me. 'All will pass away in this world, even sky and earth will pass away. Only my words: they shall not pass away (vs.31).'

Which words? The words of love, charity, mercy, grace, forgiveness, eternal life...


Jesus brings the disasters he enumerates in the Apocalyptic Sermon to a climax by quoting the prophets: for example Isaiah (13:10), 'For in the sky the stars and Orion will shed their light no longer, the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will no longer give its light.' Or the prophet Joel (02:10), 'As they [the days of disaster] come on, the earth quakes, the skies tremble, sun and moon grow dark, the stars lose their brilliance.' It is as if Jesus says, 'Imagine it as disastrous as you can image...' But then, at last, Jesus speaks this hopeful word, 'And then!' He speaks it even twice (13:26.27). 'Then' he announces that he will come back as the 'son of man' to whom - according to Daniel 7:13-14 - all kingship and authority will be given by God himself. He applies the vision of Daniel about the 'son of man' to himself!

Such a courage! Such a belief! He announced that the last word would be his. All may be pass away, my word does not pass away. It remains. Keep tight to my word.

Courageous parable

To illustrate his words Jesus makes a comparison: he compares the disasters which can happen with the spring time, 'Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near' (vss.28-29). We experience spring as a hopeful begin of a new season. And now Jesus has the courage to say that disasters are to be compared with the beginning of such a new life...?

Did I ever experience that a disaster in my life - after all - was the beginning of something new...?

Picture Meditation

We are looking at a painting of Peter Clare, ca 2000. The artist has the courage to make the paradoxical parable visible. Jesus, connected with the heaven by a life line, speaks his Apocalyptical Sermon. At the left we see a picture that summarises all kind of disasters. Jesus is pointing to the right side where we can see a fig(?) tree; its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out.' At the background a glorious sunrise, announcing a new bright day.

Jesus suggests that, beyond the things we see at the left sight, the things at the right sight are becoming true. Beyond the shape of the fiery thunder, we could discern the shape of the branches of the flowering tree. Beyond the curls and twists of the people at the left we could see the same lines in the tree at the right...

Can you believe it? Can I believe it?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ

St Mark's Gospel Reflections