Year B Sunday Gospel Reflections by John McKinnon

“… they will see ‘the Son of man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory …”

Today’s Gospel passage can be quite bewildering to a modern reader. However, to Jesus [and to Mark] and to their Jewish contemporaries, it was familiar. Today scholars classify the language and imagery as “apocalyptic”. Apocalypse was a literary technique, not uncommon among oppressed peoples, which enabled them to keep hope of liberation alive without alerting their oppressors. It used highly graphic imagery and often violent language.

Today’s passage came towards the end of a longer discourse of Jesus. In response to an observation made by disciples, Jesus had begun by speaking about the future destruction of the massive Jerusalem Temple complex. That destruction happened, in fact, forty years after the death of Jesus, in the year 70 AD, at the hands of their Roman conquerors. Many scholars think that Mark’s Gospel was written in the tumultuous months preceding that destruction. During the intervening years, the small Christian communities scattered throughout Judea and the Roman Empire had experienced ostracism from fellow Jews and misunderstanding and sporadic persecution from the Roman authorities.

Many Jews, both mainline and Christian, believed that the destruction of the Temple would mark the destruction of the world and the marvellous coming of God’s Kingdom on earth.

In colourful language, Jesus had spoken about the ups and downs likely to confront disciples after his death. Basically, his claim was that history would continue its normal violent and unpredictable course. Looking back from his vantage point forty years later, Mark was able to contribute a certain amount of detail to Jesus’ broad strokes.

What was going on? Jesus began to “pull back the veil” from the turbulent human events and explain the deeper meaning. [‘Apocalypse’ means ‘drawing back the veil’.]

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Year B Sunday Gospel Reflections by John McKinnon

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John McKinnon is a priest of the diocese of Ballarat, Western Victoria, who studied for six years in Rome where he was ordained in 1957. On reaching the age of 75 in 2008, he retired from official parish work and has made himself available for other…


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John McKinnon is a priest of the diocese of Ballarat, Western Victoria, who studied for six years in Rome where he was ordained in 1957. On reaching the age of 75 in 2008, he retired from official parish work and has made himself available for other ministries in the diocese. During his life as priest he has been parish priest, Diocesan chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Movement, lectured at the Institute of Catholic Education in Ballarat, and worked at a national level in the ongoing education of priests. He has given retreats to priests in most of the dioceses of Australia, as well as to religious and laity. Of recent years, he has been drawn on to give regular spiritual support to priests, religious and laity, particularly in the more isolated areas of his diocese.

John said: "My aim in these talks is to provide background for people who wish to reflect on the Sunday Gospels in the light of their own personal experience and to apply them to their lives. I shall examine each text, seeking to explain details that may not be familiar, and trying to determine the particular nuances of Jesus' message that the author of the gospel wished to emphasise. I shall conclude each talk with three questions that may help people's personal reflection and application of the Gospel's message."

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