Apocalypse comes every day
Gospel for Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016
The 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Glen Argan
Last month, I was in Washington, D.C., for a few days. It was my fourth or fifth trip there for a meeting of some Catholic editors. My first time in Washington, I made a point of seeing as many of the city’s great monuments as I could – the Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, the exterior of White House and others.
They were spectacular. Great energy and expense had gone into creating these monuments. For Americans, they are patriotic symbols of their nationhood.
In this week’s Gospel (Luke 21.5-19), the disciples make their first trip to Jerusalem and are awestruck by the Temple, “adorned with beautiful stones and gifts.” Perhaps for these rubes from Galilee, it was like going to a religious Disneyland.
Jesus throws cold water on their awe. “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” This beautiful handiwork of human creation means nothing.
Centuries earlier, Jeremiah gave a similar message. “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord” (7.4). Instead, amend your ways. Put an end to idolatry; do not oppress the immigrant, the widow and orphan, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. Justice and righteousness are more important than your monuments, even your religious monuments.
Jesus goes on to say the destruction will be great – wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines and plagues. “There will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.” You will be betrayed and arrested because of me.
But don’t let any of it bother you. “Not a hair of your head will perish.”
Much energy goes into building monuments, but none of it matters. What matters is that you endure and not lose heart. Pay attention to that which endures – Jesus himself.
Jesus is the New Temple. Jesus is the one we worship, not the beautiful stones on the Temple.
Many people read these apocalyptic readings and see in them predictions of the end of the world. Some try to calculate it down to the month and the day, even the hour. However, they have missed the point.
The apocalypse comes every day. Every day we are called to turn our backs on the trivial; every day human creations are destroyed. Forget about it, and turn your hearts to Jesus. Live as he lived, as Jeremiah called his contemporaries to live. Put an end to oppression and war; treat every person as the image of God.
[Other readings: Malachi 4.1-2; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3.7-12]
[Photo: United States Geological Survey]