Monday, November 24, 2008

Mark 13:24-37

Advent 1 – Year B

Mark 13:24-37

Wasn't it just yesterday we tried to talk ourselves into celebrating "Christ the King"? Today we are looking beyond a king, looking forward to the arrival of a Star Child larger than the sky – like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If you want to be reminded of that movie here are two places to look: and

Look where you will, even at a lowly fig tree, and you will see intimations of a future generation contained within a present generation. Watch for three hours or three days or three years, you will catch a glimpse of this resurrectional transformation. Watch it come even as you go about your daily work.

As a bonus, here are two comments from a Girardian perspective that help us watch in a helpful direction, to avoid the power and wrath trip so easily seen on the surface of this pericope. What will be unveiled as you watch the death of one time and the birth of a next?

"Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, has a section entitled "Apocalypse" at the outset of his book, pp. 14-16. It has to do with the very title of his book:

"The word "apocalypse" means "unveiling." What, then, is veiled, the unveiling of which can have apocalyptic consequences? The answer is: violence. Veiled violence is violence whose religious or historical justifications still provide it with an aura of respectability and give it a moral and religious monopoly over any "unofficial" violence whose claim to "official" status it preempts. Unveiled violence is apocalyptic violence precisely because, once shorn of its religious and historical justifications, it cannot sufficiently distinguish itself from the counter-violence it opposes. Without benefit of religious and cultural privilege, violence simply does what unveiled violence always does: it incites more violence. In such situations, the scope of violence grows while the ability of its perpetrators to reclaim that religious and moral privilege diminishes. The reciprocities of violence and counter-violence threaten to spin completely out of control."

And . . .

"Robert Hamerton-Kelly, The Gospel and the Sacred, pp. 35-40. (Hamerton-Kelly's commentary on Mark, written from the perspective of Girardian "mimetic theory" will be a constant over the next year.) H-K begins his commentary on Mark's gospel at chapter 11, the confrontation with the institutions of the Sacred centered around the Temple in Jerusalem. Ch. 13 brings Jesus' teachings regarding these institutions to a climax as he predicts their collapse. It is a mixture of general apocalyptic language about judgment day with more specific references to the fall of Jerusalem and the Jewish-Roman War. H-K lays this out nicely. Most notable, I think, is his closing paragraph (p. 40):

"It is remarkable that among all the apocalyptic imagery of this discourse there is not one claim, that the tribulations to befall humanity in the messianic apocalyptic history and the ultimate eschaton are expressions of the vengeance of God. Rather, the suffering is to be caused by wars, frauds, charlatans, natural catastrophes, misunderstandings and persecutions. These are the sadly predictable human failings that cause human misery without any divine intervention. In fact, the one clear reference to divine intervention has God shortening the tribulation for the sake of his elect. There is, therefore, a significant omission of the divine vengeance from a traditional apocalyptically styled passage, and that confirms our thesis that the generative energy of the Gospel is the opposite of the Sacred. Even though traditional imagery is used, the traditional content has been modified so as to remove the idea of the divine wrath and vengeance. The wrath is the suffering we inflict on ourselves and each other within the order of the GMSM. [Note: H-K's "GMSM" is an acronym he uses for: Generative Mimetic Scapegoating Mechanism.]"

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So what are you watching for? You'll probably see it. This Advent season are you willing to watch for violence revealed and redeem it?

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