When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "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.”They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.
"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by 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 of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Reflection Surely we are in no less a time of apocalyptic expectation than were the people listening to Jesus predict the decimation of the temple. Some of us are calling for a radical end of the way things have been. Others fear seismic doom and gloom borne of change. Within families, communities, cities , the Church, relationships are strained if not fatally fractured.
As people of God we are intended to be in loving relationship with God and one another. Most of us have been distracted and like our ancient Jewish ancestors forgotten our covenant with God. We are worried about “when (these terrible things) will be, and what will be the sign that it is about to take place.” Then and now we are asking the wrong questions.
The question is not “How shall we prepare ourselves for disaster; ‘famine, plague and dreadful portents and great signs from heaven?’” The question is “How shall we live to fulfill our covenant agreement with God? How shall we repent, turn away from our selfishness, entitlement, pride and isolation to follow the way of Jesus by dignifying, caring for and giving ourselves away for the good of all people?”
If we did live to fulfill our covenant with God there would indeed be an apocalyptic transformation of the world as we know it. And, if we choose to do this, like Jesus and his disciples, we can expect to be misunderstood and suffer along the way.
The good news is, God is with us and we do not have to prepare. We can have confidence because Jesus counseled, we need not be “terrified.” This moment in which we find ourselves is an opportunity to live and reveal the good news that God is with and for all people. “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” We may be hated and betrayed by many folk but we are assured of God’s presence with us… always.
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