33rd Sunday Ordinary Time B
Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16: 5, 8, 9-10, 11
Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32
As I pondered today’s gospel reading, a vivid childhood memory jumped out at me. I was looking forward to my Girl Scout Troop’s trip to a local amusement park. The day promised to be fun with the many attractions and rides, and so it was until I encountered “The Spider”. The Spider was a seemingly harmless piece of machinery that upon start-up began to sharply dip up and down while spinning my 10-year-old body around in a ride of sheer terror and the feeling of intense suffering in the pit of my stomach. With the gate locked and my body secured in the body of the beast, I was in it for the full run. It was only after feeling the ride slow down, that I would have hope of soon being “saved” by being released from my black prison when the ride finally ended.
While my little tale of suffering is told through the eyes of a child, it is nonetheless a recounting of the human experience of suffering followed by hope of the “end being near” that Mark’s Jesus addresses in today’s reading.
We know personally that the onset of and progression of suffering takes on a life of its own. We have lived and continue to live the experience of pain and suffering encountered in the past 20 months, not only due to COVID and other forms of illness, but also that felt by senseless loss of life and acts of violence spurred by hatred, misguided politics and lack of respect for human dignity and the earth community. We humanly question, where is God in all of this? Where is the good news of the Gospel?
Could we be asking and seeking answers to the wrong question? Should we instead be asking, how is God in all of this? Jesus does not tell his disciples that there will be no human suffering. In fact, he talks of tribulation having occurred, of things that cannot be known, but at the same time he reveals the power of his presence that will come among us. He speaks to us in the language of promise and calls us to be attentive to the littlest of signs. He chooses to give us good news by speaking of “tenderness” a tender branch and sprouts that show the life that is near us.
As we continue to encounter the ride of life in both our own pain and suffering and in ministering to the hurts of our world community, may we keep ourselves open to sensing the how of God in the glimmers of hope that Jesus promises will not pass away.
Sr. Barbara Ann Sgro, OP