By Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.
During this time of year in the northern hemisphere we begin to see signs of the upcoming winter. Trees that were once beaming with red, orange and yellow are now dropping their leaves, revealing barren branches. The sun is setting earlier each day and the temperature is gradually cooling. All signs point to an approaching winter.
Over the years, we have become very good at reading signs. Some are easy to read. A red octagon means stop. A skull-and-crossbones flag means pirates are nearby. A cross-and-cup emblem refers to the Precious Blood. In addition to these kinds of signs, thanks to technology we are more adept at reading the signs of approaching weather. Doppler radar, barometric pressure readings, and all other sorts of weather instruments help us read the signs and figure out the weather over the next few days.
As we near the end of the liturgical year, our readings begin to hint at various signs. Our Gospel today speaks of the darkened sun and stars falling from the sky. These along with the other images from the Gospel are from a biblical genre called apocalyptic literature. The most significant example of apocalyptic literature is the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible.
Gallons of ink have been spilled trying to decipher the various images and signs in apocalyptic literature. Does the darkened sun from our Gospel today refer to the most recent solar eclipse? When the moon no longer gives its light, does that mean it is the end of time and the Son of Man is returning?
Our first reading points to times of tribulations when the world seems to be in great turmoil. Our Gospel even speaks of heaven and earth passing away. As we approach the Feast of Christ the King, our readings at Mass will start to take on more apocalyptic tones. We need not get bogged down in trying to figure out every sign that appears in the scripture because all apocalyptic literature in the Bible has one ultimate meaning and that meaning is found in the last line of the Gospel: “But that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, only the Father.”
The meaning of all of this dramatic imagery of the end of the world is simply that God is in control. God knows what is happening. God always wins in the end. This is a teaching that we can rely on. This is a clear message that we need in our world today. Even in times of turmoil and upheaval when everything seems to be going wrong, in the end, God is in control. And God loves us.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
The V. Rev. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. Previously, he served as the secretary general of the worldwide Congregation and was also in ministry at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., of which he is an alumnus.