Jesus speaks in today’s gospel passage about the infamous “END OF TIME.” What do you make of that? And does it bother you as much as it does me that Mark’s Gospel has Jesus reporting that not even he, the Son, knows “the day or the hour”? I thought Jesus was supposed to know everything!
What is more, the first reading from The Book of the Prophet Daniel only seems to add to the wonderment and confusion over “the end of time.” The author of this book is writing about 600 years before Jesus’ birth and yet is already speaking of a final reckoning, judgment, resurrection of the dead, and everlasting triumph of “the wise.” What’s taking so long?
With all of the “doom and gloom” signs that surround us—from wars without and division within—it is very tempting to read the signs of the times as warnings that THE END may be near. But if I were you I wouldn’t purchase a ticket on the next available commercial space tour to watch the end of the world—just yet.
A little bit of research reveals that what Daniel and Mark are referring to as “signs” and “the end” are to be understood as apocalyptic. That is to say, these scriptures refer to a typical prophetical view that recognizes God as “The Lord of History”—all and everyone’s history for all times! In this manner of speaking and understanding one could be referring to “the end of history” as it is perceived at the time or the end of all history. At any rate, this is the END which Mark the Evangelist is referring to that “even the Son” does not know. (In other words, our present Trinitarian theology had not been worked out at the time of Mark’s writing; he is not referring to an all-knowing second person of the Blessed Trinity.) When prophets speak of “the end” they are almost always doing so to simply undercut and put emphasis on a far more significant message:
BE VIGILANT! BE PREPARED!
I think it is easy to grasp that “I know not the day or the hour” and “our/my end is coming” means something different to a soldier in harms way and someone who has lived to see his or her picture on a centenarian Smucker’s jam jar. So after we have observed that today’s gospel passage is not to be misinterpreted superstitiously, we must nevertheless tap the reality factor and admit that “I do not know the day or the hour of my own reckoning,” it may just come as “a thief in the night,” so I absolutely should be prepared and vigilant. I should shape up. There you have it.