Preparing for the season ahead
Today’s Gospel gives us insights into how the evangelists crafted their narratives about Jesus. The short reading from Mark reveals his style and vision for how his audience should understand Jesus. The themes of power, timeliness and anticipation are prominent, which we should expect to hear as we approach the feast of Christ the King, the season of Advent and the celebration of the birth of Christ.
‘And then they will see “the Son of Man coming in the clouds” with great power and glory.’ (Mk 13:26)
What can you do to have a positive impact on the world?
How do you pray?
How are you preparing for the Advent season?
As Jesus neared the end of his ministry, he stressed his forthcoming suffering, death and resurrection to his followers. Today’s Gospel is located just before the events surrounding Jesus’ last supper with the disciples and his arrest. Jesus says that the Son of Man is coming in the clouds with power and glory. This image draws on Daniel 7, which is proclaimed in the first reading next Sunday.
The prophet Daniel describes a vision of “one like a son of man” or “one like a human being” on the clouds. This person has power and everlasting dominion, and Mark frequently identifies Jesus as the Son of Man to affirm his authority and kingship.
The second part of the Gospel refers to an earlier event in Mark in which Jesus curses a fig tree. After his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was hungry and looked for figs on a tree. Finding none, he proclaims, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again” (Mk 11:14). The next day, Jesus and his disciples pass by the fig tree, which had withered away, revealing the efficacy of Jesus’ curse. Jesus makes this a teachable moment by reminding the disciples of their power when acting and praying in his name.
Mark has Jesus recall the fig tree story to stress the importance of timeliness, seasons and productivity. Jesus cursed the fig tree because it failed to produce fruit. On the other hand, the growth of a fig tree can indicate that summer is near. Both realities remind the disciples that they must be active in ministry, continuing to grow the community even after Jesus’ death. Recalling the fig tree incident also reminds the disciples of the power and authority they are given by Jesus. Moreover, the emphasis on seasons reminds the disciples to be ready for the new season ahead.
In his final days, Jesus builds on the Hebrew Scriptures and on his teachings throughout his ministry to prepare his followers for what is to come. Mark builds up his Gospel to heighten the anticipation for Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection. As we near the end of the liturgical year and ready ourselves for Advent, we should assess how active and engaged in the world we have been this year and reflect on ways to be prepared for the new year.