The darkness of the readings today appropriately match the mood of despair and darkness after yet more senseless and violent attacks over the past few days in Beirut and especially in the city of light – Paris. The Gospel is taken from the longest discourse in the Gospel of Mark – the whole of the thirteenth chapter features a single discussion by Jesus and four of his disciples about the looming destruction of the temple and the days of darkness that would follow. It should be obvious that although this chapter is sometimes called a mini-apocalypse, the form is very different from the book of Daniel (our first reading) or Revelation. The predictions that Jesus is making relate to the immediate events that lie ahead for the community as relations between the Jewish people and the Roman occupiers would continue to deteriorate leading into the Jewish war of 66-70 CE, which would result in the siege of Jerusalem and the utter destruction of the city including the temple with an incredible loss of life. As the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus points out, the large death toll can only be partly blamed upon the Romans – infighting between the various factions led to more deaths than those inflicted directly by the brutal Roman soldiers. It is no wonder that Jesus encourages his followers to flee into the hills to escape such carnage.
Such predictions and the events overseas cause us to ponder deeply upon the meaning and reality of evil. There is never an adequate answer to such horrors. The best that we can do is remember that freedom brings with it certain responsibilities. The fact that we are free means that we can at any stage choose to exercise our freedom to cooperate with God’s invitation to the good or instead to choose to do evil.
Let us pray with great fervour for a true and lasting peace built in a genuine experience of mercy – for only in this will the wounds of past evil begin to be healed.