Tuesday of Week 34 of Ordinary time – Gospel


Commentary on Luke 21:5-11

The Temple at Jerusalem in Jesus’ time was a magnificent building and one of the wonders of the world. As the Gospel tells us it had been more than 40 years in the building and was not yet completed.
People were commenting to Jesus on the beautiful decorations of jewels and votive offerings. His hearers must have been shocked, if not utterly sceptical, when Jesus told them that in time the building would be utterly destroyed with “not one stone left on another”. Who would ever have dreamt that the World Trade Center, that temple to capitalism, would be reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes? And how much more the Temple of God?
“When will this happen?” they asked him. “And what will be the signs preceding?” Jesus’ answer is directed more to the end of time than to the actual destruction of the Temple which occurred about 40 years later in the year 70 AD. In fact, one event blends into the other. To many who were witnesses to its destruction, it must have seemed like the end of their world. What kind of life could they live without their Temple, without the dwelling place of their God? How could Yahweh allow such a thing to happen? It left a huge empty space in their lives which nothing else could fill.
Jesus’ warning is that his followers should not misread the signs or be too alarmed. It seems the early Christians were in general expecting Jesus to return for his Second Coming within their lifetime. This must have led to many false alarms – people claiming to be the returned Lord or warning that the end of all things was close at hand. Even the destruction of the Temple (for many of the Christians were converted Jews) must have looked like the beginning of the end. St Augustine had similar feelings as Rome, the heart of Christendom, fell in ruins to the ‘barbarians’ (the ancestors of many of us!). The end of Rome seemed to him like the end of the world.
Jesus tells his followers not to be too ready to believe what they hear people saying. Nor are they to be too alarmed when they hear of wars and social upheavals. There will be, too, many natural disasters, widespread diseases and celestial phenomena. These do not necessarily spell the end. The message now being given is: “The end does not follow immediately.”
At every pivotal time in the history of our planet, there are people who claim to see the end in sight. The coming of the third millennium was no exception. So far they have all been wrong. The attitude of Christians is not to be one of fear and anxiety. It sees the new era as a time of challenge and opportunity, a time for new beginnings.
On a more personal and much more realistic level, we may be anxious about the signs of our own time of departure from this world. But again it does not help to become fearful and anxious but rather to live each day to the full and to make it productive for ourselves and others.
 

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