In the last few years, humanity has faced huge challenges and terrible loss of lives from the pandemic. We also witness civil and military unrests in many parts of the world. And now, political confrontations of all sorts are escalating; threats of war are looming; speculation and fear is mounting about the possible use of nuclear warfare. Never a day seems to past that would spare us of bad breaking news!
What will the future of humankind be? One ponders. The current happenings in the world do appear to tally with what Jesus describes in this week’s Gospel reading about war, famines, plagues and natural disasters. He speaks about Christians being arrested, persecuted and brought before “kings and governors” because of his name (Lk 21:12). He warns us not to be led astray by those who come in his name and say “I am he, the Messiah; the time is near!” (21:8). Indeed, such proclamations are abundant; they can be heard everywhere. They attack the Church and tell unsuspecting church goers that the Church’s way is dark, evil, corrupted and alas, the way to death!
Let us study the words of Jesus in a historical context. Jesus and his disciples have made a long journey to Jerusalem. They eventually arrive at Mount Olivet, where Jesus will make his triumphant entry to Jerusalem. His Passion is imminent and Jesus continues to teach them. At the end of his discourse, Jesus said, “as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me” foretelling the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (19:27). The city is said to have drawn “a divine curse upon itself for rejecting Jesus as its messianic king”: the Romans trampled the city and the Temple to the ground. The tragedy claimed the lives of more than one million Jews (ICSB P144, 147).
After Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem in glory, as his disciples admire the beauty of the Temple, Jesus foretells again the devastation of Jerusalem. He said, “The days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down” (21:6). The Temple symbolizes the Old Covenant. The destruction of the Temple signified the end of the Old Covenant world and the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation.
The catastrophe in Jerusalem is a historical preview of the end of the world. God’s judgment of Israel at the end of the Old Covenant era prefigures the destruction of the universe and the judgment of all nations at the end of the New Covenant by Christ. These are spiritual truths that point forward to his Second Coming in glory and the end of time (ICSB P50).
Jesus gives us plenty of desolate warnings in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. He even says that we will be betrayed by our own family, relatives and friends (Ref 21:16). However, the Gospel reading ends with upbeat verses to empower us as Jesus empowers his disciples, “You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls” (21:17-19).