33 Ordinary Time B – 18 November 2012 – The End of a Time
Do you ever worry about the end of the world? An ancient text of the Maya civilization confirms that the end date of the long term Maya calendar is December 21, 2012. Not a prophetic prediction about the end of time, the text refers to archaic political history. “In times of crisis the Mayans used the calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse.”  They looked forward with hope rather than give up in the face of turmoil.
Today’s gospel of Mark, known as a “little apocalypse,” contains verses attributed to Jesus and his reference to the end of time. Like the Mayan calendar, these words of Jesus are not about the end of the world but about the end of a period of time. Political conflicts in Judea and Galilee escalated in the mid-first century. The Roman government retaliated against the Jewish Revolt in the year 66 CE, about the time this gospel was written. The Temple was destroyed four years later and the Jewish state collapsed.
Many thought their world as they knew it was coming to an end. The evangelist Mark was reestablishing Jesus as the one who would save the Jewish people. Scholars think that Jesus himself believed that there would be a peaceful resolution to these conflicts in his own time. Actually, time was running out for Jesus. The next chapter (14) in Mark is dedicated to the passion and death of Jesus.
The first reading from the Book of Daniel is similar. It contains the only Hebrew bible reference to the doctrine of resurrection and eternal life. It was written probably during the persecutions of Antiochus IV as a means to bring about justice at a time when Israelites were being martyred. Many people around the world still suffer at the hands of cruel governments.
Both of these stories are longings for more peaceful times when the kin-dom of God would come about to deliver people from corrupt imperialistic rulers. Something new can emerge when something old passes away. The cross over or transition however is not always easy, welcomed or quick.
There are a couple of examples of end times today. Surely those suffering from the super storm Sandy have seen their worlds come apart. Citizens of Israel and Palestine are worried about the mounting tensions there. For others the recent election symbolized a shift in political strategies. Television talk show host Bill O‘Reilly opined, “It is not a traditional America anymore.” Columnist David Brooks picked up on this remark and wrote. “Each year there are more Americans from different cultures, with different attitudes toward authority, with different attitudes about individualism ….” 
The same could be said of our church. We are changing too. We are no longer the traditional Church where one group rules everyone else without consultation. Last week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met to discuss many issues. They supported comprehensive immigration reform; they approved the development of a plan to use technology in their teaching authority, they endorsed Dorothy Day for sainthood and they urged Catholics to go to confession more often.
We hope that the bishops collectively acknowledged in their deliberations that the traditional Catholic church is now more diverse in its make up, that more American Catholics not only come from different cultures, they have mixed attitudes toward authority and they live very independent lives, thinking and acting for themselves. Why refer to these emerging trends? While our country and our church are not experiencing an apocalypse they are experiencing significant shifts signaling the end of a time period and the beginning of a new era.
Today is the anniversary of the promulgation of the Decree on the Laity  one of the landmark statements produced at the Vatican Two Council. The Decree celebrates the “proper and indispensable role in the mission of the Church” given to all laypersons by the Spirit of God. The document indicates that by their baptism the laity share in the priestly, prophetic and royal office of Christ (2). This assertion implies that the laity also have a role to play in the governance of their church, as co-workers in the vineyard and not merely as helpmates to the hierarchy. 
Last week one new parishioner said to me she comes to this parish because she does not have to worry about being scolded or made to feel guilty. She said she feels welcomed and safe here, that she leaves nourished and strengthened to cope with the week ahead.
Neither the Maya calendar nor the Christian bible is predicting the end of the world. We are however moving from one period of time toward a new horizon where anything is possible with an open mind. Nations are changing, the climate is changing, people are changing, the church is changing. What is required from each of us is to read the signs of the times and then to create a strong desire to participate humbly and more fully in the life of our communities, our country and our church. Sustained by the word of God and the bond of our eucharistic communion we can together advance the kin-dom of God on earth — our inheritance.
1 Marcello A. Canuto in http://news.discovery.com/history/maya-long-count-calendar-end-date-120629.html
2 David Brooks in http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/opinion/brooks-the-party-of-work.html
3 Apostolicam Actuositatem, November 18, 1965
4 Pope Benedict XVI, Opening of the Pastoral Convention of the Diocese of Rome. Theme: Church Membership and Pastoral Co-Responsibility (Basilica of St. John Lateran, 26 May 2009