Today we hear a type of Scripture called apocalyptic. The last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, is also apocalyptic, but in the Gospel of Mark we find a condensed version of it right here in Jesus’ words as he speaks with his disciples. This year, humanity has experienced many terrible events: most recently the terrorist attacks in Paris, but also the failure of our culture to protect God’s universal plan for marriage. Some Christians believe there will be a single terrible event that is coming, the great tribulation, but rather, could it be that all tribulation is united to Christ’s own that he faced on the cross? By speaking to his disciples this way, Jesus prepares them, prepares us, for a history of tribulation, a great tribulation which he has already conquered himself. Through Apocalyptic scripture, God expresses his concern that we are ready for difficult times, and that we help one another through them.
The disciples themselves experienced more than one great tribulation. Jesus, the one in whom they hoped, was arrested and crucified. Even after the gift of the Holy Spirit, they dealt with continued persecution as they continued laboring to expand Christ’s Church. The disciples would experience many tribulations, and Jesus speaks of the great tribulation as a way to prepare them, to prepare us, for all of them. Apocalyptic scripture seeks to assure us that God is more powerful than these forces of chaos and evil, and that we are to show love to one another even more clearly in the face of them. Thus it seems clear that the great tribulation began with Christ’s own on the Cross where he showed himself able to conquer it, and showed us that we are to help one another especially in the face of it.
As Jesus spoke of one great tribulation instead of many, Jesus speaks of one generation that will not pass away. We know that the original disciples have died but again, Jesus is connecting many literal things and speaking of them as they are one. How are we the same generation as the original disciples? All disciples have the same baptism, and have received the same life, the Holy Spirit. Thus all disciples have the same mother, the Church. We are all brothers and sisters of Christ, thus the many literal generations of disciples, are one generation just as the many tribulations that we face are all connected to the one Christ faced on the cross.
Despite the tribulations, Christ says that his Word will not pass away; he also says that this generation will not pass away. This one generation, the one Church, will continue to proclaim his Word until he comes again, and we do this especially by showing to one another the same love which Christ showed us on the Cross. The Cross was at once the height of his Word of love, the height of the tribulation, and the beginning of the new generation.
Over the course of history there have been many false prophets which claim to know when Christ will come again. Christ says, only the Father knows this. We pray that when he comes, he will he will find us showing the same love to one another that he showed us in the beginning.