Fr Bob writes: Our first reading this Sunday, from the book of Daniel, introduces us to a type of writing called “apocalyptic,” a word that means ‘unveiling” or “revealing.” The book of Revelation (also called “Apocalypse”) in the New Testament is another example, as is the gospel text this Sunday. It is a genre of literature pointing ahead to the “Day of the Lord” and consummation of history, when God would definitively intervene in world affairs to bring about his final purposes for his people and the world. It was usually written to strengthen and comfort the faithful in times of adversity with the promises of God’s prophetic word.
The imagery used by Jesus in the gospel, of “sun and moon darkening and stars falling from the sky” would be familiar to Jewish people regarding a future time of tribulation culminating in victory for God’s people and need not be taken with absolute literalness. The idea of some sort of a cosmic upheaval is what is being aimed at in this kind of imagery. Some Christians have made determination of the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming or Day of the Lord at the end of time a central focus of their theology, even making precise predictions. Some have even convinced their followers to sell everything and wait at a designated place for a day that came and passed, causing them to lose both credibility and friends at the same time. One remembers the furore some years ago around a certain Professor Campion who confidently predicted the end of the world, based on a mathematical reading of biblical predictions, then changed the date when his original prediction came and went without incident, and when his revised date still found the world carrying on as usual, promptly disappeared from public view, with many of his followers left financially stranded.
That Jesus will come again, we profess every time we say the Creed. When is a mystery not even the Son was given to know. We do best focusing less on determining the exact timing than on being prepared at all times … prepared to stand strong with Jesus no matter what problems or catastrophes beset us.