Luke wrote his gospel around the year 85AD. In the fifty years that had passed since the death and resurrection of Jesus, tremendous events occurred. There were wars, political revolutions, catastrophes and the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
Christians became victims of injustices and persecutions. How to explain these dramatic events?
Someone appeals to the words of the Master, “There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; terrifying signs from heaven will be seen… Here is the explanation—Jesus had foreseen everything.
The misfortunes (especially the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem) are signs of the end of the world that is coming and that the Lord is returning on the clouds of heaven.
Today’s gospel tries to answer these false expectations and correct the interpretation that some had given to the words of the Master.
The teaching takes place when some people approach Jesus in the temple and invite him to admire its beauty.
The rabbis used to say, whoever has not seen the temple of Jerusalem has not contemplated the most beautiful among the marvels of the world.
The answer of Jesus is amazing, “There shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire. Amazed, they ask him: When will this be and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”
Jesus cannot specify the date. He does not know it, as he does not know the day and hour of the world’s end (Matthew 24:36). He is not a magician, a soothsayer, so he does not answer.
Why does Luke introduce this episode? There were false prophets in his communities who have always presented a serious danger to the Christian communities.
Luke records that Jesus is also bothered and warns his disciples against those who foretell that the end of the world is near. He strongly recommends, “Do not follow them.”
What will happen in the time between the Lord’s coming and the end of the world? Jesus answers this by using apocalyptic language familiar to people of his time.
He talks about uprisings of peoples against peoples, earthquakes, famines and pestilences, terrifying events and great signs in heaven etc… Jesus uses it to say to the disciples that the passage between two eras of history is imminent.
The new era is inaugurated with a proclamation of joy and hope. Anyone in pain and waiting for the kingdom of God should know that the dawn of a new, wonderful day is about to appear.
That is the reason that he urges the disciples not to be afraid: not to be frightened (v.9).
After having invited them to consider the time of waiting for his return as a gestation that prepares for the delivery, Jesus announces the difficulties that his disciples will have to confront: prison, slanders, betrayal by the family members and best friends.
There were those who doubted, why endure so much suffering and make many sacrifices? It is all to no avail: the wicked will always continue to prosper, to commit violence, to get the better of the righteous.
Jesus says that this will not happen. God guides people’s lives and directs the plans of the wicked to the good of his children and the establishment of the kingdom.
In this world, the value of their sacrifice will not be recognised.
They will be forgotten, perhaps cursed, but God—and it is his judgment that matters—will give them the reward in the resurrection of the righteous.
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Thomas Thennedyil CMF