At first glance the readings from Daniel and Mark for this weekend are a bit frightening. They speak of a time of great distress, the sun being darkened, the moon losing its light, the stars falling from the sky and the powers in the heavens being shaken. They make us think of the end of the world and the fact that nothing in this life lasts forever: not our possessions, nor our achievements, nor our relationships, nor life itself. These can be sobering thoughts, but there are a few ways in which we can look positively on the passing nature of things.
One way is to treasure every moment in life and especially to treasure the people in our life. If we start to imagine how lonely or sad we would be without those who are closest to us, that should make us appreciate them more, stop taking them for granted and take every opportunity to tell and show them how much we love them.
Another way is to notice the hopeful messages that are in these readings. They belong to a type of writing we call apocalyptic, lifting the veil on the future. This sort of writing is always addressed to people who are being persecuted and its purpose is not to frighten them but to reassure them that the trouble they are in will come to an end and God will rescue them. So the passage from Daniel tells us that our own people will be spared and in the Gospel Jesus says the Son of Man will send his angels to gather his chosen from the four winds.
A third way is to remember that, in the midst of all the change and turmoil in the world and in our lives, God never changes, his love for us never changes and that is all we need. Even though heaven and earth pass away, Jesus says, his word will not pass away. Jesus is the Word that the Father has sent into the world, and it is a word of love and mercy. This is the truth behind the prayer St Teresa of Avila kept as her bookmark, right up to her dying day:
Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things are passing; God never changes. Patience gains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.