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Called to be angels of joy and hope

At the beginning of chapter 13, Mark the evangelist recalls the words of the Lord not to be deceived by the foolish discourses of those who preach the imminent end of the world: “Don’t let anyone mislead you. When you hear of wars and threats of war, don’t be troubled: this must occur, but the end is not yet” (Mark 13:5-8). 

Continuing from there, Jesus uses many images from today’s gospel, not to frighten the disciples, but to console them.

Plagues, famine, violence and persecutions which they must confront are signs of a world still dominated by evil, but the end of this painful reality has already been decreed and its decline has begun. 

Immediately after the eclipse of these oppressive idols, there appears, with the clouds of heaven and with great power and glory, the Son of Man to establish the kingdom (v.26). 

The Son of Man “will send the angels to gather his chosen people from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky” (v.27).

The meaning of the image of the “angels gathering the elect from the four winds” is the announcement of a judgment; there is no mention of any punishment; the message is anything but threatening. It is the comforting answer given by Mark to his communities that are going through persecution and death. 

To those Christians who are tempted to give up, Mark recalls the promise made by Jesus: the Son of Man will not allow them to be lost; through his angels he will gather them from the four winds—a symbol of the four cardinal points—and then will gather them from all the earth.

The reunion of the disciples will not be in view of the showdown, but for salvation. The angels are identified on the basis of biblical references. The term angel does not necessarily mean a spiritual being, as is generally imagined; it means every mediator of God’s salvation. 

In the bible, it is applied to anyone who becomes a tool in the hands of the Lord in favour of man. 

The salvation of the brothers and sisters who defected from the faith and dispersed does not occur through a miraculous intervention of God, but through the mediation of angels, disciples who, in times of trial, were able to remain firm in the faith. They are the angels in charge of bringing the brothers and sisters in the unity of the Church. 

The message is therefore of joy and hope, not one of the chosen ones will be forgotten or lost. 

The second part of the passage (vv.28-32) answers the question that spontaneously comes after hearing the consoling message that the kingdom of evil has come to an end and that the Son of Man will gather the elect in his kingdom: when will this happen?  

The answer is given by the image of the fig tree (v.28), the last of the trees to get their leaves. When these begin to appear, the farmer feels that summer is approaching and enjoys thinking about abundant crops.

Only the Father and no one else knows the day and hour when the kingdom of God will have its fulfillment (v.32). 

However, there are clear signs that show that the decisive moment is approaching. Christians cultivate the sensitivity and the watchful eye of the farmer who knows how to capture the signs of the new season.

• Father Fernando Armellini CMF