33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Dan 12:1-3; Mk 13:24-32) “Pulling Back The Veil” PDF Version
Homily for the 33rd Sunday of OT, Year B (2018): Dan 12:1-3; Mk 13:24-32
The word Apocalypse is one that we use quite often, usually to describe situations that are catastrophic, marked with doom and dread and evoke images of the world ending in violence and chaos! Many grew up with the fear of a nuclear apocalypse raining hell fire upon the earth, while modern concerns about climate change has lead many to proclaim that an ecological apocalypse awaits Mother Earth. As someone who played their share of video games growing up, the idea of a zombie apocalypse created by some virus ravaging humanity was one that brought fear to my youthful imagination.
What is strange about our modern usage of the word apocalypse are that they are often a far cry from the meaning of this word in its original Greek origin. In its original form, the word apocalypse meant to reveal or to unveil something which was hidden. For the biblical authors whose writings are categorized as apocalyptic literature, their work was marked by the author’s desire to show how God would reveal or pull back the veil separating heaven and earth to give humanity a glimpse into the glory of heaven, and through these revelations, announce a warning of cataclysmic events that would come to pass when heaven’s glory was beheld by humanity and all of creation.
Today’s reading from the Prophet Daniel is an example of biblical apocalyptic literature. Here God has given Daniel the prophetic sight to see through the veil separating this world from the next to see the glory of heaven, a realm typically hidden to human eyes, but with God’s permission, is gazed upon by Daniel to see the workings of angels and the glorious realm where God dwelt. Daniel looked in awe as he saw the great Archangel Michael, the protector of the People of Israel and now the chief angelic guardian of God’s Holy Church.
It was then revealed to Daniel of what was to come to pass: That God would send St. Michael to assist God’s people, which Daniel foresaw would suffer greatly when the armies of Greece would conquer Israel in the 2ndcentury BC, subjecting them to cruelty, and lacking no hesitation in committing sacrilegious acts against the God of Israel by robbing from His temple and desecrating His altars.
But Daniel’s mystic sight saw even further past the veil separating his time and the future as He also saw when St Michael would return at the end of all things to defend The Church against the final assault of Satan, what we Christians commonly refer to as the final apocalypse.
It is this final battle between Christ and His angels and Satan and his fallen legion that Our Lord refers to in today’s Gospel reading. There are many portions of the 4 Gospels that can be called the apocalyptic saying of Jesus Christ. What they have in common is that they are occasions when Christ reveals and unveils for this disciples the thin veil that separates this world from His High heaven, allowing them to momentarily look into the Kingdom of their Heavenly Father and learn that great calamities would befall those who followed Christ.
He did not promise them a life free of suffering or calamities, but rather that they would behold great wars, offenses against the dignity of the human person and unspeakable anguish. Much of these tribulations that Jesus spoke of would come to pass when the Apostles would witness the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was for them and all who beheld God’s holy city be reduced to rubble and ash to be as if the world as they knew it had come to a crashing end.
But the Apostles and generation of Christians who survived the destruction of Jerusalem would soon realize that Our Lord’s warnings of future wars and conflicts was an even further unveiling of the future; for many wars would come to pass, new terrors like atomic bombs would bring fiery death to the world, and great signs in the heavens like the one seen in Fatima in 1917 were all precursors to the end of all things.
As frightening as these passages of Scripture are, we must realize that at the end of time what awaits God’s faithful is an even more awesome unveiling of God’s glory! Our Lord’s return at the end of all things as Judge of the Living and the Dead is the greatest of all apocalypses, the most incredible rendering of the veil separating this world from heaven; for when Christ returns, He promises to “Make All Things New” (Rev 21:5), vanquishing death forever and allowing heaven and earth to be united as one, forever removing the veil that separates them and allowing us to dwell in the new Eden.
Before the end comes, at a day and hour known only to God alone, meaning we must live with vigilance and expectation for Our Lord’s Second Coming, it is important that we open our hearts to see those little apocalypses that take place in our daily lives.
There are countless moments when God pull backs the veil between heaven and earth to allow us see momentarily into heaven and prepare our hearts for trials that are sure to come.
It occurs at every baptism, when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit come from heaven to begin reigning in the soul of everyone that has been washed in the waters of salvation.
It takes place every time we come to the Holy Mass and see how Jesus Christ comes from heaven to be among us in His Body and Blood. It occurs at every celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when God pours down His salvation as divine rain from heaven into the heart of a sinner who repents and seeks to sin no more.
These and countless other moments are ones that God pulls back the veil and lets us have the briefest look into heaven. They are moments that fill us with grace, strengthen us to fight the good fight of faith, to renew out efforts to resist the allures of sin and steel our hearts for what every sufferings and trials will come to pass.
They are moments that give us confidence not to fear whatever catastrophes that are to take place, since when Jesus returns in glory and a new heaven and new earth are united as one in a marriage unlike any other, then we will behold something unspeakable wonderful, a revelation beautifully captured in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien who once wrote “the gray rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it, white shores, and beyond, a fair green country onto a swift sunrise.”