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Living in the Last Days


It was the hubris of each generation to think this anew, to think that their time was special, that all things would come to an end with them.” ~ Hugh Howey

Our re-entry into ordinary time on the heels of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord kicks off as it does every year with the beginning of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews (1:1-6) as well as what many Biblical Scholars have come to affectionately call “Jesus’ Inaugural Address”, which this year comes to us courtesy of Mark (1:14-20). It is here that Jesus would deliver his first sermon. More on that in a moment.

“In times past,” Saint Paul explains in today’s 1st Reading, “God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.” Last days? Are we really in the end times?

Well.... yes and no.

Having immersed myself in Paul’s writings over the years, I have come to believe that this tireless and intrepid evangelist thought that he was indeed living in the end times; that he would live to see Jesus’ second coming. This is mere speculation on my part, but it is a premise rooted in the words he wrote. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 immediately comes to mind Although Jesus’ return obviously didn’t occur during Paul’s lifetime, it certainly didn’t hinder the efficacy of his teachings nor would I say that he was altogether wrong in his phrasing. The words he carefully chose in today’s passage pertaining to Jesus’ time on Earth were the last days, not the end days. There exists a significant difference.

Prior to the birth of Jesus, God had always spoken to our ancestors in partial and piecemeal ways through the prophets. But there was no true understanding of the bigger overall picture. It was not until Jesus’ arrival that the words of the great prophets which preceded him fell into place. It was with Jesus’ arrival that these “last days” began in earnest, characterized by God the Father speaking through Jesus his Son. Jesus is the final word, he who was made heir of all things, the key to understanding all that had transpired before him.

The new is hidden in the old and the old is made manifest in the new in Jesus Christ.

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Jesus is the one through whom God spoke his final and definitive word. These are the last days that we find ourselves in. This is not to say that these are the end of times in a literal sense. For no one knows when that moment will arrive (Matthew 24:36). But the final stage of salvation history has arrived, wherein which all of God’s promises find their fulfillment. Herein lies our hope. Yes, death will eventually catch up with us; I’ve attended three funerals this week with a fourth planned for next. But through the fulfillment of the promises in these final days of this our glorious salvation story, it has no dominion, no power, over you or over me.

“This is the time of fulfillment,” Jesus says to those in his midst in the opening words of Mark 1:14-20 Suddenly something and someone has appeared that the entire human race had been longing for. “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” he would go in to say. In his very first words, Jesus implores us to acknowledge that we must change, be transformed. How? Well, for man it is impossible. But as we’ll see in the days and weeks ahead as Mark’s Gospel continues to unfold, with the sanctifying grace of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, miracles, transformation, and at times miraculous transformations, become something of a common occurrence.

The fragile and fleeting nature of life on this earth reminds us that we are all, in a manner of speaking, in our last days. Against the unfathomable backdrop of eternity, our time here is minuscule. We must always be prepared to meet our Lord. That day may come sooner than we think; it may come today. Best to embrace the loving and compassionate words of a loving and compassionate Savior:

The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent.... and believe in the Gospel. Believe in the Word made Flesh. He is the way.

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