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The signs of the end

Gospel Reading: Lk 21:5-19
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”

He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” “Before the end happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony.

Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

One serious accusation leveled against Jesus is his alleged threat to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple is a marvel of a gem for the Jews, a symbol of their identity as God’s people and an embodiment of their cherished hopes and ambitions. The Jews believe that because God reposes on this hallowed ground, they will always be protected by God’s abiding presence as long as the Temple stands proud and tall.

It thus sends shockwaves and creates ripples of apprehension to many people when Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple: “There will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” This prophecy will be fulfilled about 40 years later, on 9 August 70 AD. Upon Titus’ orders, the Roman soldiers, outraged at the stubborn resistance of the Jews, will raze the Temple to the ground, its ruin complete.

(Only the Wailing Wall remains today.) The Temple will be no more, yet the world will not stop turning. Jesus also predicts that the end-time will be presaged by natural and man-made calamities but that these will not immediately bring the world to its end. Jesus warns against false prophets who teach otherwise, those who sow fear in people’s hearts and feed on people’s anxiety by pretending to know the final date and time.

Time and again, usually after a major catastrophe or disaster (natural or man-made), rumors about the end of the world fly thick and fast. Doomsayers mouth the horrors of Armageddon. Many are hoodwinked by false prophets who pride themselves in “decoding” the Scriptures, claiming they have an “inside track” into the mind of God. No private revelation is given to any person because God has already fully revealed himself to us in his words and deeds and in his Son Jesus, the story of which is contained in the Bible but whose meaning is illumined by the long tradition of the People of God guided by the Church magisterium.

Paul waits for the return of the Lord by embarking upon an active ministry for the Gospel. He does not fold his hands and wait passively; rather, he works hard to the point of death in bringing the Gospel to the farthest ends of the earth. Jesus gives a terrible scenario that will accompany the end-time, but he devotes himself to a full-time ministry to those in the bottom of the societal pyramid (the last, the least, and the lost). It is a ministry that leads to his death on the cross. Despite the grim shadow of persecution and the cross, Jesus counsels people against anxiety, assuring them of God’s providential care. “By your perseverance,” Jesus tells us, “you will secure your lives.”

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.