Thursday, 29th November, 2018
Apoc 18:1-2, 21-23, 19:1-3, 9; Luke 21:20-28
In St John’s vision today, we read how Babylon-representing the city of Rome- and the greatest city of evil, has been destroyed by God for its wickedness. This led to the great hymn of praise for the punishment of the city, for our great God judges fairly and punishes justly. The clear message is this: in the end, nothing that is opposed to God can stand. God will always triumph over evil and injustice, and we must believe that with all our hearts.
Jesus’ eschatological discourse in St Luke is inspired by Mk 13 but Luke has made some significant alterations to the words of Jesus found there. Luke maintains, though in a modified form, the belief in the early expectation of the end of the age (see Lk 21:27, 28), but, by focusing attention throughout the gospel on the importance of the day-to-day following of Jesus and by reinterpreting the meaning of some of the signs of the end from Mk 13 he has come to terms with what seemed to the early Christian community to be a delay of the Parousia.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is emphasising not so much the actual events but rather their cause – the faithlessness and corruption of so many for which destruction was the inescapable outcome. Therefore, he calls them the “days of retribution” or the “time of punishment”, not indicating God’s revenge but the natural result of evil and corruption, warnings of which the Scripture, especially the prophets, are full.
The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans had already taken place by the time the gospel of Luke was written, yet these words still ring true even for us, two thousand years later. Somehow, peace in the world will never be possible until there is peace in Jerusalem, something that seems as elusive now as it was in Jesus’ time.
Day after day in these Gospel passages, Jesus is speaking with his disciples, bracing them against disasters. If he were preaching today, he would speak of nuclear and ecological disasters, terrorist attacks. ‘Don’t lose heart’ he says to us, ‘God still directs human history and will bring good out of it – your redemption.’
But what a grim Gospel passage today! In the gospel, Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the people for their lack of faith and perseverance. He also says that there will be great terrifying and frightening signs. All these are signs of the trials of the Christian life and of the difficult coming of God’s kingdom among us.
Finally, Jesus speaks of various cataclysmic and apocalyptic signs to signal the end of time. They are typical biblical phenomena and we know that they are not meant to be taken as exact foretelling of events. They conclude with Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man riding on a cloud coming with great power and glory.
There is a mixture here of two distinct prophecies of Jesus: one of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 A.D.; the other of the second coming of Christ at the end of the time. The readers of Luke’s gospel could recall how Jerusalem had been laid waste; and they expected the Second Coming of Christ in their lifetime.
Our perspective is different, but the theme of distress and desolation still strikes a chord with us. We commend to God in prayer the thousands who live in desolation and foreboding, the victims of war and famine. We pray that the Lord will look with pity on the suffering people of Iraq, Sudan and other places of misery. For many of them, whether Moslem or Christian, God is their only secure refuge.
For the disciples, the loyal followers of Jesus, it is a time to “stand up straight and raise your heads, for your redemption is near at hand”. For those who have tried to live by the vision and values of the Gospel, for those who have tried to seek and find Jesus in all the people and events of their lives, who have spent hours with him in intimate dialogue, it is the time of their final liberation, a time when there will be no more sorrows, no more tears, no more hardships, no more disappointments. Rather, they will be entering an unbroken time of love and intimacy, of freedom and peace, of joy and consolation.
Let us not forget that we too can delay the coming of this kingdom ourselves, by our selfishness, hunger for power, injustices, violence and all the other evils caused on others. But let us remember that our meagre efforts can still bring salvation nearer. With the help of Christ present among us, we can grow in love, forgiveness, compassion and peace.
In the midst of all sorts of destruction; redemption, new life and joy can be just around the corner. No matter how life may frighten us, the care and the protection of God is near. Jesus uses creation signs to indicate this. Let us today join Jesus in praying for peace on Jerusalem and on all her inhabitants, Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians, and on their leaders.
How we need the gift of Christ’s peace in our world today. All around us wars are raging and people are suffering. Lord help us join in the search for peace, help us remember those suffering now and show us how to be of service to them. In these troubled times, let us focus on the majesty, power, and love of Christ. Though the world may seem to be in turmoil, we can put our hope and trust in his.
We look forward to the day of Jesus' return in glory. We are called to help others prepare for that day and to be ready to greet it with confidence. Until then, let us make our hope in the Son of God’s return burn brightly in our hearts, until the sky shines brightly with his glory.
So, as we approach the end of another liturgical year in Jesus’ name, we do so on an upbeat note!