What did it feel like to be with Jesus when he mentioned that “not a stone will be left upon another stone” when the Temple would be destroyed? That’s the thought that sparks my imagination whenever I read today’s Gospel selection (Lk 21:5-11).
The disciples listening to Jesus immediately asked: When will this take place? The disciples’ anxious question was likely on the mind of Luke’s readers. Was the end coming so soon? Luke narrates that Jesus responded by saying “See that you are not deceived…for many will come saying the time has come.”
Jesus continues by saying that all sorts of catastrophic things will happen but he also notes that it will not immediately be the end. “Earthquakes, famines, plagues and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” For almost two millennia, Christians have worried about the end of time.
Indeed, today’s first reading (Rev 15:1-4) describes “… seven angels with the seven last plagues, for through them God’s fury is accomplished.” Are Ebola, HIV, cancer, and so forth signs of the end? There are people who have said so. More will do so.
St. Paul calmed the worries of the Thessalonians in his two letters to them. He warned them not to think that the end is near and thus neglect the duty of hard work and charity that are always required of true disciples of Jesus. In fact, he advises that those who do not work should not eat (2Thes 3:6-12)
Jesus and Paul both seemed to quell all panic about the end of time. Both of them pointed to keeping faith in God and trusting that there is a merciful and loving God who extends mercy in judging all creation.
So what does it all mean for us? How are we to live in the face of such uncertainty about the end of time?
Well, recall that Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King—a reminder that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. Given the message of the Scriptures, I reckon that since it is almost 2,000 years since the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is no reason to believe the end of the world is near. Instead, given our mortality, we must lead sober, productive lives confident that God is merciful.
That means that we have reason to take seriously our role in life, according to our calling and the circumstances in which we live. If we but trust in the Lord and strive to answer his call daily, we will be united with him forever.
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