We’re approaching the end of our liturgical year. We always start that year the first Sunday of Advent: four weeks of Advent; Christmas, the birth of Jesus; and then on through his public life. We conclude it, as we are this year now, with reflections on the end of time, the end of human history. This can be kind of a discouraging or fearful sort of reflection, but if we listen deeply, we’ll find it very hopeful and very strengthening.
But first of all, we have to understand the kind of language that’s being used in our Gospel lesson and in our first lesson today. It’s a language that goes with a scriptural writing we call apocalyptic. The whole book of Revelation, the book of the apocalypse, is written in this kind of language, and many passages in the Hebrew scriptures, especially in this book of Daniel, are written in this apocalyptic language. It’s a language that was used at times of great stress, when the scribes, the teachers, were trying to encourage people at a time of persecution, a time of suffering, a time that seemed to be hopeless.
It’s important to understand that much of the language is very symbolic. The visions are described as messages from angels and it’s not to be taken literally, but if we listen to it carefully and try to enter into what’s being said through those symbols and the visions and the coming of angels and so on, we, too, will be strengthened as the people at the time were….