(1475 – 1564)
The Last Judgment
The Last Judgment is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo covering the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. It is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. The dead rise and descend to their fates, as judged by Christ who is surrounded by prominent saints. Altogether there are over 300 figures.
The work took over four years to complete between 1536 and 1541 (preparation of the altar wall began in 1535). Michelangelo began working on it 25 years after having finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and was nearly 67 at its completion.
In the lower part of the fresco, Michelangelo followed tradition in showing the saved ascending at the left and the damned descending at the right. In the upper part, the inhabitants of Heaven are joined by the newly saved.
The reception of the painting was mixed from the start, with much praise but also criticism on both religious and artistic grounds. Both the amount of nudity and the muscular style of the bodies has been one area of contention, and the overall composition another.
24 “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 But about that day or hour no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’”.
The Consoling coming of the Son of Man
The Old Testament language of cosmic signs, the Son of Man and ingathering has been blended together in a new context in which the final coming of Jesus as the Son of Man is the key event.
While apocalyptical writing is recognised by its scary and dark imagery of trials, tribulations and turmoil in the heavens, there is also the consoling light at the heart of it all, which overcomes the darkness.
Here that consolation takes the form of the Glorious Son of Man, Jesus, coming on the clouds to gather his chosen and faithful ones from all over the earth.
Mark borrows this encouraging picture of God’s deliverance from the promises of the Old Testament prophet Daniel. The Son of Man in Mark is however Jesus, not the angelic figure “in human form” (Dan 7:13).
Encouraged by this hopeful vision, readers of Mark can accept more readily their responsibilities to be a consoling light for those who might not yet have experienced the hopeful side of the Gospel promises.
Just as the Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming, so both Testaments are filled with references to the second coming of Christ.
Like Paul and the community at Qumran, the author of Mark believed that the promises of the Old Testament were being fulfilled in and for his believing community.
Mark opens with the proclamation that the ancient prophecy had been fulfilled in the mission of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the work of Jesus. The activity of Jesus, in which exorcisms play a major role, is presented as a cosmic eschatological (final) struggle with Satan and his demonic allies, the powers of evil.
In Mark, the role of Jesus as Son of Man has three phases:
1. His activity on earth prior to the Passion;
2. The suffering and dying Son of Man who was to rise again;
3. The exalted Son of Man who would return on the clouds and exercise
The death of Christ in Mark is an eschatological (final) event because it makes possible the liberation of humanity from the power of Satan.
The second coming is an event for which Mark expresses imminent expectation.
Triumph of the Son of Man
“The four winds” refers to the four points on the compass (north, south, east and west).
The actions of the Son of Man are the reversal of the prophesy of Zachariah where Yahweh “scatters you to the four winds of heaven”. Jesus, rather than scattering will gather the children of men from all countries.
The gather of God of the elect people is found in many Old Testament passages but interestingly enough, nowhere in the Old Testament does the Son of Man perform this gathering.
The communication consists of a Parable. The Parable about the clear signs of the end- the fig tree leaves- is balanced later in the following verses by a parable of constant vigilance.
This Eschatological Discourse in Chapter Thirteen speaks of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. One of the Disciples warned Jesus, “Teacher, look what stones and what buildings!” Surely there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”.
The Temple of Jerusalem was a tangible sign of the presence of God in the midst of His Chosen People. The Temple united all the Jewish tribes. All this was a sign of the promise made to David. But all this will be destroyed … It is a sign of something else yet to come.
The curious Disciples, therefore, asked Jesus, who was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple, “Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when all is near?” Jesus gives the answer of recognisable signs.
When we have all this in front of our eyes, it is easier to understand the importance of being vigilant and attentive in waiting for the arrival of the “master of the house”.
Jesus often asked his Disciples to watch. In the Garden Gethsemane, on Thursday evening, the Lord said to Peter, James, and John: “Stay here and watch”.
Vigilance helps us not to fall into temptation. In Gethsemane, the disciples fell asleep because “the flesh is weak, though the spirit is willing”. Whoever falls asleep risks perishing like Samson, who allowed himself to be put to sleep and thus lost his power. It, therefore, encourages us to stay awake and pray to avoid deception or seduction. The Apostle Paul also calls us: “Awake, you who sleep, and rise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you”.
The saying about “these things” happening in “this generation” is balanced by the admission that only God knows the exact time.
This is the steadying thought the Church, in her wisdom, wishes to put before our minds today. We all know that we must die someday. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth; ‘we have not here a lasting city’, as Saint Augustine says.
No one among us will try to deny this and yet, many of us are so immersed in the things of this world that we forget or try to forget that we must leave this world soon. This is very natural: life is a precious gift and as our earthly life is the only one of which we have experience, our every inclination is to hold on to it at all costs. Even when our intelligence tells us that it can, in spite of all our endeavours, end very soon we try to convince ourselves that that ‘very soon’ is really in the distant future.
The message we must learn from today's Gospel comes across without any ambiguity or doubt: We must always be ready to face our judgement for we know not the day nor the hour when we will be called from this life.
When or how this world will end is of no great importance to us; what is important is that we shall leave this world very soon and our eternity will depend on the Mercy of God and not only on the state of our consciences at the moment of our departure.
“We pray for the grace to expand our minds
and open our hearts to the Lord’s presence in us and in the world,
as well as to His final coming.
Holy Spirit, as your disciples and servants,
we ask you to open our eyes and ears
and all other senses so that we will always be attentive
to the Lord and be able to work with Him
in building His kingdom of peace, justice, and love.
Please, awaken us again and again
and cleanse us of everything
that prevents us from being able to accept
and live the Word of Jesus
and be ready for His second coming”.
“He will send his angels to gather his chosen from the four winds.”
We remember doctors and nurses and humanitarian workers who go out to the war-torn areas of the world to bring comfort and healing to those afflicted by the aftermath of war.
We offer a prayer of thanksgiving for their expertise and their care.
“In those days, after the time of darkness.”
For a moment, place yourself on the cross as if you were Jesus. Remember what has happened from the time of recorded religion to your current moment on the cross.
Recall that God does not measure time like our own.
Could not the coming of the Son of Man be an ongoing process?
Have you felt darkness and had your life shaken?
Does this message of hope speak to your journey of finding and knowing Jesus in
this present time?
“So also when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near,”
We are conscious of the many environmental disasters and concerns of the modern world -extreme drought, forest fires, flooding, mudslides, freak weather patterns, animal and plant species nearing extinction. Many lives lost and people left homeless and devastated. Poor countries suffering while the affluent continue to pollute and plunder and deplete the earth’s resources.
We thank God for Pope Francis and other prophetic voices challenging world leaders and governments to radical change, and calling each of us to play our part by disposing of waste properly, not running water needlessly, using reusable bags ...
Lord forgive us our sins of greed and indifference and nourish our hope that it is not too late, and that we can yet save our planet.
 Dan 7:13-14: “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming
with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented
before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples,
nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed”.  One scholar has estimated that there are 1,845 references to the second coming of
Christ in the Old Testament, where 17 books give it prominence. In the 260 Chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second
coming of Christ; an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the twenty-
seven New Testament Books refer to this great event.
 Mark 2: 10. 28: “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on
earth to forgive sins”. “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath”.  Mark 8: 31; 9: 9.12.31; 10: 33. 45; 14: 21.41  Mark 8: 38; 13: 26; 14: 62  Mark 10: 45: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his
life a ransom for many”.  Mark 9: 1: “And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who
will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power”. Mark 13: 30: “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things
have taken place”.  Mark 13:27  Zechariah 2:10  Deuteronomy 30: 4; Isaiah 11: 11. 16; 27: 12; Ezekiel 39: 27  Mark 13: 33-37  Mark 13: 2  Psalm 122: 4: “To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for
omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect”.  Ephesians 5:14: “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”.