11.29.18. Thurs. wk 34 – O. T. – (II) Revelation 18: 1 – 2, 21 – 23; 19: 1 – 3, 9a
Luke 21: 20 – 28
†Jesus said to his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, for these days are the time of punishment when all the scriptures are fulfilled. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Rejoice in the End-Times
We continue reflecting on Scriptures this week that take us down a path of frightening images; marching armies, mass destruction and fallen cities. The passage from the Book of Revelation prophesied the destruction of Babylon. And we know that the author was referring to Rome – the Roman Empire. The empire had followed false gods – it had been persecuting Christians for decades – by the time this Book of Revelation was written. And it would eventually fall into the trash heap of History – which was predicted in the passage from Revelation.
In the Gospel, †Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem. Led by its religious leaders, it had been unfaithful to the Covenant made with God. The Historian, Josephus, later wrote that 1.1 million Jews were killed during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans – and that another 97,000 were taken captive and they were dispersed all over the gentile world as predicted by †Jesus in the Gospel. These were the Jews of ‘The Diaspora”. These were the Jews that were later dispersed throughout Europe that Adolph Hitler tried to exterminate. Their ancestors had come to Europe during this time – after the fall of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem and its Temple would be destroyed – and it would no longer be the center of worship. This is what †Jesus was prophesying: the Temple in Jerusalem would no longer be the center of worship because we will worship in a New Temple, a Living Temple”. We will worship in the arms of the Risen Christ.
These prophesies were not only about contemporary history alone – but timeless passages of Scripture that are meant also for us. We are to take note because the world will come to an end. Not only will cities come to an end – but empires and planets will come to an end – and all of humanity will face an end in this life.
These divinely inspired words of Scripture however, should not leave us in despair. We must not forget another prediction that †Jesus made: “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”. (John 12:24) And St. Paul would write in his Second Letter to Timothy: “If we have died with Christ we shall also live with Christ. If we persevere, we shall also reign with Him”. (2 Tim.2:11-12)
So as we listen to these dire predictions in today’s reading – we should be filled with Hope and Rejoicing. Thank goodness the world is passing away. I would hate to live in the world as it is now forever and ever. Thank God also – that we are passing away. Why should we be grateful? Because there is more to living than we find in this life.
St. Ambrose wrote this: “Death was not a part of nature – it became a part of nature. God did
not decree death from the beginning – He prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow because of sin – and so life began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils. Death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace – immortality is more of a burden than a blessing”. (Office of Readings; 2 November)
We can rejoice and be hopeful as we face our mortality. It opens up a whole new life for us. We must be grateful to God for the ‘ending’ of life – because without the ‘endings’ there can be no ‘beginning’ – no ‘New Life’ for us.
So what do we think of all this in the 21st century? We are closer to the ‘end-times’ than they were 2,000 years ago when the Scriptures were written. And one day – the Kingdom of God – which is present among us right now – Will come to its fulfillment. It is not something to fear – but something to rejoice in. †Jesus has redeemed us from slavery to sin – He has redeemed us from fear of death. Death is simply a doorway that we walk through – to Eternal Life. The saints and the martyrs all knew this and their suffering and their death were not a prison – but rather – they made them into ‘A Temple of Praise to God’; and their scaffolds became ‘Thrones to the Glory of God’.
Our hope lies in the promise of †Jesus that He will come again. He will lead us to ‘The Eternal Wedding Feast’. Just as the angel said in today’s first reading: “Blessed are those who have been called to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb”. (Rev.18:9) So do not live in fear – but in Faith and Trust – even in the darkest moments of your life. Live in Faith and Trust – because †Jesus is calling us to Himself – and He will hold our hand along the way.
Pope Francis calls us to be ‘Children of Hope’ – to live a life that leads us down the pathway to God. The Holy Father teaches: “This means returning to God. Converting the heart to God and going on this path to find Him. He is waiting for us”. (On Hope; Pope Francis; p.6)
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.