Hearing this Sunday’s Gospel we might be tempted to say, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” in the words of Ecclesiastes. The Gospel opens with people admiring the grandeur and beauty of the Temple. This magnificent work of human hands rightly elicited their admiration and pride in human achievement.
Yet, Jesus reminds the people, and us, that the visible realities of this world eventually pass, however awe-inspiring they might be to behold. Jesus warns them, to their surprise, that even the glorious Temple, with its magnificent, solid architecture and exquisite beauty, that must have taken many resources and sacrifices to build, will crumble and fall one day.
Jesus goes on to list multiple signs and wonders that will accompany the end of the age. His words capture the general spirit of the readings from Scripture around this time when the liturgical year draws to a close.
In these final weeks of the church’s calendar, we are invited to reflect on the coming reign of God’s kingdom at the end of time, and in our hearts and lives today. We ponder how best to prepare for that coming of Jesus among us.
I am sure you will agree that Jesus’ list of signs and wonders reads like today’s headline news. First, he speaks of wars and insurrections when nations rise against other nations and kingdoms against kingdoms.
Continuing on, Jesus points to natural occurrences such as earthquakes, famines and plagues. Then, as if natural disasters were not enough, Jesus notes awesome sights and mighty signs that will come from the sky.
Finally, Jesus warns the crowds that those who believe in his name must prepare themselves for rejection, betrayal and persecution. Centuries later, the overall scene described in this Gospel passage is not unlike the daily round of world news today!
So why does Jesus alert his listeners to these future events? Does he mean to instill fear? God’s word invites us to listen to Jesus as he gives his disciples, and us, a consoling message of trust and hope.
First, Jesus invites the people to move beyond fascination with exterior signs, whether man-made or natural, to an interior state of mind and heart that rests in God’s wisdom and providential care. Then, Jesus assures his disciples, and us, that while, “you will be hated by all because of my name, not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Similar words of encouragement are found in the first reading from Malachi who says, “For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
Christians are anchored in a quiet perseverance and trust in God’s loving help and healing, in the midst of the shifting sands of each day’s challenges. This confidence in God gives us the courage to pray, “speak to me, Lord.”