As we approach the end of another Church year, and toward the end of Mark’s Gospel for another cycle, the Church gives us this very, shall we say, colorful Gospel. Colorful in its language; colorful in its meaning; colorful in its interpretation.
Will this generation really not pass away until the stars fall from the sky, the sun be darkened, and the moon fail in offering its light? With this Christian belief, the people of the 1st century waited for all these astronomical events to happen in their time, which would be the signal that Jesus was returning; the sun, the moon, and the stars to start acting out of whack; to possess a mind of their own and start doing their own thing, away from the natural purpose for which God created them. Sort of like people who perform actions of true hatred. They’re like fallen stars and a darkened sun if we say and do things that contradict the love Christ calls us to. We’re not meant to be Catholic contradictions.
Maybe that’s what our Lord meant with the words that symbolize the irrational behavior of nature’s most potent elements. That the Son of Man is near the gates when there are so many fallen stars, and so many darkened moons, that we leave God no option but to return and save us from ourselves. But don’t you think his return would have happened during the Second World War, a time of violence and hatred on a scale our world had never before seen, and has yet to match it since? Not to minimize the violence and hatred we see tossed around today, with political divides, immigration, and caravans and such. That would all make sense, if he already didn’t come to us. Instead, his first appearance to our generation was an invitation to love, with the perfect example given by Christ on the Cross. A concern for one another, this invitation to build up his Kingdom.
As we teach in our faith, there is no further revelation after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Him, our generation has been given all we will ever need to shine like stars in the sky of heaven, to be as bright as the sun on a clear day, to allow our resurrected hearts to be as bright as a full moon on a cloudless night. There is no further revelation to come, after Christ. The eternal commandment is spoken; love God and love your neighbor. Not a false god and some of our neighbors. The goal is to seek perfection. ‘Be perfect,” Jesus says, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The language of today’s readings is the language that causes a few folks to lose their minds and begin predicting things that pass like a ship in the night. The Church uses this end-time language because we near the end of a Church year that leads to what? It leads to a new advent. An advent where we, with great joy, look forward to celebrating the coming of Him who invites into his Kingdom of love. A Kingdom that is larger than the universe, yet it’s within us. “Come to me,” he says, “all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
If that’s a core teaching in our Lord’s lasting revelation to us, then why all this talk about falling stars, darkened sun, the moon losing its light? Why all this talk about caravans, political divides, and whatever else that has the potential to bring forth from us a response that contradicts the great commandment, choosing instead to live in fear?
You know what I think? It’s like God says to us, “Here’s a star for you. Here’s the sun for you. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to turn this caravan into a fallen star, or a shining star? Is the great Prince Michael going to arise in your heart, or is the great demon that Michael destroys going to control our actions? Which one is it?”
If God does indeed test us, this is what it looks like. What are we going to do with that star? Because this generation will not pass until all these things have taken place. Which generation is Jesus talking about for our time? Is it the Greatest Generation of all those men and women defined by history as the ones who saved freedom back in the 1940’s, in the midst of a twisted generation of evil leaders and followers? Is it Generation X Jesus talks about, or the Millennials, or the Baby Boomers? Which generation is Jesus referring to with falling stars and a moon that fails to shed its light?
It’s all so confusing, on paper. But it’s not to be confusing in our hearts. In fact, it’s very clear. We know what God invites us into, in our Baptism, in our Confirmation – go and be disciples, – in our reception of the Eucharist. These are not routine actions. We do them, I pray, because we seek to draw closer to him who has already saved us from ourselves, and him who calls us to imitate his love.
“This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” Jesus fooled them all. “All these things” refers to every star, sun, and moon, every act of love, small and large, that God in his infinite wisdom knows will happen before Jesus returns in all his glory. The focus of God is on love, and each one of us owns a plentitude of those acts. Every one of us participates in “all these things.”
And, “this generation?” “This generation” is not reference to all the human names we give to certain people and certain times over the centuries. “This generation” refers to the entire Christian generation from the time of Jesus’ resurrection to the time of his return. It’s one longstanding generation of those who follow the Master, which is why we stand united with all the Saints from every time. He will come back and resurrect our bodies when the full quota of loving acts is reached. God is counting. May we help to build up that number.