readings are quite intense. Since we are less than a day away from Advent it would be expected that the intensity grows, and so it does! We see all these strong apocalyptic images of great beasts rising up and devouring, and then falling away to the next beast. What are these images about? Apocalyptic literature is always kind of scary and many people spend the majority of their lives trying to find out who these people are, not just in the past but some try to interpret them as in the present. The point of the literature, though it can be prophetic and often was, is to point to righteousness and faith being the key to redemption. They almost always end with the judgement seat of God and the end of time.
The lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) represent strength and characteristics of kingdoms to come and go. Just as you and I would be scared if a bear walked into our living room, let alone a bear with three large tusks; so too was the imagery intended to convey a message. That message is that these kingdoms that are coming and going are very powerful, savage and cruel. They all fall though. This scene in Daniel ends with the coronation of the Son of Man coming on the clouds. Jesus is in charge. These kingdoms, despite their power and guile, will all fall away.. the only Kingdom that reigns forever is that of the Messiah, of the Christ. This is the promise of the Davidic throne, this is the promise to us through Christ, the only begotten Son of God.
Then we see this interesting parable that talks about figs, and signs of the times. Just like in the apocalyptic literature we see symbols of what is going on in the world politically at the time, we see Jesus teaching us to keep our eyes and ears open. He talks about the fact that we see the buds of the fig trees ready to burst forth and that shows us that summer is almost here, so too should we keep our minds open for the coming of Christ. He also taught us though, that only the Father will know that day. So what does he mean? He means to be vigilant. To be ready.
I was trying to learn more about figs earlier today, to see how this parable could apply to my life. I grew up helping to tend bee hives occasionally. I had heard quite a bit about bees and how they pollinate the food we eat, helping things to grow and reproduce. I did not know that wasps also for some plants do the same thing. Figs have a special kind of wasp that not only pollinates the fruit but also lays it's eggs there. The queen crawls into the fig, lays her eggs, in the process pollinates the inside of the fruit, and then she dies. She is consumed by the fig.
That's a strange relationship. The thing is, if you ask me about wasps I truly think of them as a terror. Compared to bears, lions, eagles... a wasp is much scarier to me. I don't know why. Their little faces make me think of pure evil. That to me is the lesson I take from this whole situation. I think of the wasp as evil, as those things inside of me that get in the way of me letting God have complete control. Just like the fig I often think these things are for my good. I let them crawl around inside, not really asking what to do with them. The fig teaches us a lesson though. When we have those things inside we need to dissolve them. We need to let the Jesus inside of us consume those things, drive them out... leaving nothing but the fruit inside.
I think that's our lesson. As the liturgical year ends, our minds begin to think of the end of time. We don't know when that will come. We don't know exactly what that will look like, or what it means for us to transition from life to eternity. What we do know is that we need to be ready. We need to let the Holy Spirit scatter the darkness in our hearts until nothing is left but the sweetness of His fruits. As my dear friend Kenn often says, "Get ready, be ready, stay ready." Don't wait till tomorrow, don't simply watch for signs of things to come.. but be ready regardless of what is happening. Don't let your lamp go empty, keep the fuel handy at all times.
His servant and yours,