On the Gospel of Luke 21:5-19
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The dramatic language Jesus uses to describe the end times may seem more fitting to a Hollywood blockbuster than the tranquil confines of the local parish church on a Sunday morning, yet, it is confirmation that the relative tranquility we now enjoy will one day be mightily disrupted. The ‘signs’ he mentions are true of every age – wars, revolutions, famines, plagues and earthquakes are very often tragic realities in many parts of our world.
‘Many will come using my name and saying ‘I am the one’… Jesus is adamant that we not be deceived. We belong to God and no other. He is quick to point out that false prophets are ever lurking, hoping to stake a claim on us and who don’t always have our best interests in mind! Surely this is nothing more than a reassurance of our true worth, if ever we were feeling low. There are so many forces out there vying for our affection, so many ‘false gods’ competing for us. The worship of money, lust and egotistical ambitions are evident all around us, but to name a few. Yet Saint Paul tells us that ‘the world as we know it is passing away’ (1 Cor 7:31)
The desire for instant fame, regardless of one’s actual ability, can be seen in the amount of reality TV shows on our screens. Don’t get me wrong – talent deserves to be showcased. The Greek philosopher Plato maintained in his famous ‘Apology’ that’wealth does not bring about excellence, but excellence brings about wealth and every other blessing’. So many of us though, are vainly investing in fantasy and in many instances are prepared to sell our very selves to sustain it. The appeal of these shows lie in a superficial, unrealistic, idealised celebrity lifestyle which for the vast majority is unattainable. I know we are in recession but that is too high a price to pay, even at Celtic Tiger rates. Jesus, more than any, is aware of the treasure that is at a stake here. He is insisting that we keep our eye on the ball, not losing sight of him amid all the other attractions.
If the wage paid by sin is death (Rom 6:23), imagine what the prize for persevering in times of trial might amount to? It is this hope that sustains the martyrs as they joyfully witness by their blood to the glory of God. Jesus reminds us that he alone can satisfy our desires. When all around us is crumbling, we arm ourselves with a patient temperament and a quiet confidence in the saving power of our God. He guarantees the eloquence of the Holy Spirit; an irresistible tongue to refute the falsities hurled against us as well as the promise that ‘not a hair on our head will be lost’. It would appear that we have all the aces in our hand.
The question we need to ask ourselves is ‘are we willing to move beyond ourselves and depend totally on Jesus when the going gets tough?’
When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed’. And they put to him this question: ‘Master’, they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place’? ‘Take care not to be deceived’, he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and “The time is near at hand”. Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon’. Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives’.