November 19, 2006
Catechist Background and Preparation
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what these readings mean for you today. Was there a particular reading which appealed to you? Was there a word or image that engaged you?
Read the Word in Liturgy and Catholic Doctrine sections. These give you background on what you will be doing this session. Read over the session outline and make it your own. Check to see what materials you will need for the session.
The Word in Liturgy
Today’s passage from Mark is part of a larger section (chapter 13) sometimes referred to as the "little Apocalypse” because of its similarity to the Book of Revelation. Vivid imagery of the cosmic convulsion which will accompany the Lord’s coming on the last day is typical of this literary genre, and here the author has combined several strands of such material into a single narrative. Written for a community that had witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and was currently undergoing the effects of Roman persecution, Mark’s gospel message was one of both consolation and hope. Despite the “tribulation” they had seen and were still experiencing, the Son of Man will come “with great power and glory” and will bring ultimate vindication to his faithful ones (“his elect”). The message urges hope in God’s abiding presence and protection, but it is not intended as a kind of almanac with which one can read the time of the last days (“no one knows”).
The final judgment, in contrast to individual judgment, concerns all of human history. Final judgment implies that history will not merely stop or that the story of creation will end without resulting in God’s action. What is happening even now and what will be further clarified at the end of time is the renewal of the world in Christ. The last judgment will be in the form of a glorious revelation of God’s triumph over evil.
Both the teaching on particular judgment and on final judgment proclaim that we are creatures who are given life and the responsibility to act in accord with God’s plan in Jesus Christ. We are not created to be aimless or to decide our lives on the basis of personal taste or through a merely individual calculus. We are responsible to live up to the covenant established with us by God in Christ.
Scriptural descriptions with apocalyptic imagery regarding the end times are not to be read literally. Catholics read those descriptions with eyes of faith, understanding that our destiny and our hope, our anchor through rough personal and historic times, can only be found in Christ who is “the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega” (RM, Service of Light, Easter Vigil).