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Readings about the last days can bring healthy reassessment

The truth is inescapable. Someday we will die. Our life as we know it in this world will come to an end. 

As the liturgical year winds down (next Sunday is the last Sunday of the year, the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe), as we commemorate our departed loved ones in November, and as the wind and cold remind us that things of nature, too, have died, it’s not hard to imagine why our readings focus on the end – the last days. Both the first reading from the Book of Daniel and the Gospel from Mark 13 are from a literary genre described as “apocalyptic.” For us, these writings seem filled with future doom and gloom, violent destruction and cosmic disaster.

Where do these readings lead us? First of all, we’re reminded of our mortality and the possible suddenness of radical change in our lives, which can bring us some healthy reassessment. What are my priorities? If I have placed my confidence on what will eventually disappoint and crumble, then perhaps I need to make some major shifts while there is still time.

Nevertheless, we also hear a strong note of hopefulness in the readings. Things will not always be the way they are now. The evil in our world that thrives on the backs of the vulnerable, will not, in the end, succeed. There will be a new beginning. God has an eye for his chosen ones and when the Son of Man returns he will “gather” them. In the Book of Daniel, God’s people will “escape.” The final words of that reading: “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” 

As Catholics, our belief in the Resurrection must strongly color our thoughts, attitudes and decisions. The words we profess together every Sunday are the ground for hope. No matter what trials we undergo, we firmly believe in resurrection. Jesus is our hope. He will triumph and we are to stand strong in that victory with him!

Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the archdiocese. Contact him at dahanneman@archomaha.org.