Look, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all the evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.(P) The word of the Lord.
Sing praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song. With trumpets and the sound of the horn sing joyfully before the King, the Lord. (R)
Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell in it; let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy. (R)
Before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to rule the earth; he will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity. (R)
Brothers and sisters: You know how you must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any one of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should he eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.(P) The word of the Lord.
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left one stone upon another, all will be thrown down."
Then they asked him, "Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?" He answered, "See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, "I am he," and "The time has come." Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powered earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky."
"Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
A woman was on her death-bed with her husband at her side. As the husband was holding her cold hand and weeping quietly, the wife was trying to say something to him. The husband said, "Ssshh... don't try to talk." But she insisted and said in her tired voice, "I have to talk. I must confess." "There is nothing to confess. It's all right", said the weeping husband. She said, "No, no. I must die in peace. I must confess that I have been unfaithful to you." The husband softly stroking her hand said, "Oh... honey... . Don't be concerned now. I know about it. Why else did I poison you?"
Friends, we really do not know who wants us dead and who wants us alive forever. Do we? Jesus says in today's gospel, "You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death." We know how true Jesus' words are.
What is death? Death is the end of our physical life. It comes upon us anytime in any place. As a matter of fact, we experience the end of many things and the loss of many people in our life time. When we see the first grey hair or tiny wrinkle on our face or first little lines at the corners of our eyes we know our youth has come to an end. Despite our best effort to prevent it our bodies continue to age. We steadily progress towards death. Our body reminds us that we are impermanent and perishable.
We experience the loss of created things and possessions both big and small. Some material things last for a few years. Some mighty strong things may last for a few thousand years but eventually they too share the same fate. They are destroyed by floods, storms, fires or earthquakes. We are reminded that all material things can collapse at any time. The destruction of houses, heritage churches and properties by powerful earthquakes and the recent super typhoon in the Philippines last week is a sign of all this.
We also experience the loss of relationships. At one moment we feel so loved and accepted by others and at another moment we feel disowned and shunned by them. People come and go in our lives. Broken social relationships remind us of the transient nature of our lives. No one and nothing remains with us forever. The only thing that abides in us forever is the Love of God. So Jesus calls on us to embrace the permanence of God rather than our temporary life.
We read in today's gospel that as Jesus is preaching in the Temple some people look up and speak in awe of the beauty of the Temple. The Temple is adorned with costly stones and votive offerings to God. Of course, the beauty of the temple is overwhelming. It befits God for He is glorious and powerful. But Jesus says, "All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left one stone upon another, all will be thrown down.", Luke (21:6).
The people are astonished at Jesus' words. The standing of the temple is of great significance to the Jews. It means they are in a time of peace and prosperity. The destruction of this temple would signify a time of great hardship and persecution for the Jewish people. So they ask him when it will happen and how they will know of its coming. They assumed the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world would take place at the same time. But Jesus refuses to be drawn into speculation. Instead he warns them of the impending events such as wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues and persecutions and tells them to be prepared. He admonishes and warns them to be alert and not to be deceived by false teachers who would appear and tell them that Jesus has returned during one of these events and could be found in a certain place. He does not want them to associate any of these events He described with His second coming and the end of the world but assures them that it will be a time of great suffering. So he instructs them that while these events will continue to take place they must continue to preach the gospel to all people to the end of time. The prophesy of Jesus came to be fulfilled in the year 70 AD when Titus, a Roman general, seized Jerusalem and ordered the whole city and the temple to be destroyed completely. The destruction of Jerusalem is only one of the many tribulations and sufferings we have experienced since Jesus predicted it.
What is the message for us?
Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, does not want us constantly to worry and be anxious about the future - the end of world or the end of our life. Our own death or the end of the world will come when it has to come. Why should we have to worry about it? Instead of contemplating on the things yet to come Jesus wants us to preach His gospel and to live a good and happy Christian life following his example. He tells us not to be terrified of such things (earthquakes, famines, wars, persecutions, hardships etc.) for it will not be the end. He comforts us and promises us to be with us always, to the very end of time, Matthew (28:20). Saint Paul says, "Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ - trouble or hardship or famine or nakedness or danger or sword, Romans (8:35).
Friends instead of embracing God who can sustain us through the dangers many of us live in a world full of sin and corruption. We seem to focus more on the pleasures and material things that surround us rather than on the spiritual things of God. Spiritual things of God are those things that stand for God and concern God. God is Love and Love is God. Saint Paul says, "Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited. It is never rude and never seeks its own advantage. It does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrong doing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.", 1 Corinthians (13:4-7).
In other words, in the midst of hardships, persecutions, suffering, illnesses, wars and natural disasters, let us continue to focus on the spiritual things of God. If we are not certain when death would visit or the end of the world would come, why should we spend our time in bitterness, hatred and accumulating earthly things? Let us not pass a day or go to bed without reconciling ourselves with God and with others for we do not know when the hour will come.
Sadly we are deceived by many people who find no fault with many of the sins and people living in sin. Each of us knows what our sins are and what kind of sins our parents, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues commit every day. Many are seeking to deceive us and deprive us of our loving relationship with God. There are many who encourage us to ignore the sinfulness of the world. We need to be careful. Friends, not just little children or young people but any of us can be deceived, including us priests. Many people try to convince us that if we trust in ourselves, our ability and trust in others and the things we have, our life will be secure, happy and peaceful. But we know from our experience that most often we end up in disappointment. I believe if only we would trust in God first and then in ourselves and then in others and finally in the things we experience then what Jesus has promised us - peace and everlasting life will be ours. Let us courageously and confidently follow our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life so that we too will be saved just as Jesus has promised in today's gospel, "By your perseverance you can save your lives."(P) Amen.
God Bless You!