34th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)
Jesus told his disciples a parable. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Agricultural and spiritual literacy go hand in hand, according to Jesus. As blossoming figs hail the arrival of summer, “these things” (earthquakes, famines, plagues, signs in the sun, moon and stars spoken about in Luke 21:11 and 25) alert disciples to watch and pray like a sober sentinel for the arrival of the kingdom of God.
Apocalyptic language sounds foreign and alarmist to modern ears, but is intended to awaken the slumbering to unseen realities. Warnings to stay sober and alert in the midst of natural, political, and social upheavals sounded just as strange to first-century hearers.
People scoffed, “Where is the promise of his coming? From the time when our ancestors fell asleep, everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
Reality and prophecy did not seem to match up in verses such as the following: “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).
Spiritual discernment threw notions of time and space into topsy-turvydom: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).
Natural, political, and social disasters have been around for millennia. Divine patience is infinite and eternal, but life on earth is finite and temporal. Invisible realities must be discerned invisibly, taking their clues from the outside world. Earthquakes, war, and political polarization are signs of the inner, spiritual struggle of persons and nations. Adam in whom all persons dwell is like a snow globe reflecting the weather patterns of the earth. When Christ is all in all, the cosmos will be renewed and transfigured (Colossians 1:15-20; Ephesians 1:10; 2 Peter 3:13). Inner and outer realities will match up with the Spirit of truth and love.
The Lord will come unexpectedly like a thief, as he did the first time when few were prepared in spite of centuries of prophecy (2 Peter 3:10; Luke 12:39). The divine thief stole the heart of the good thief on the cross. Will he steal ours?