– 17th November 2019 –
Gospel Text: Luke 21:5-19
vs.5 When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings,
vs.6 “All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.”
vs.7 And they put to him this question: “Master,” they said “when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?”
vs.8 “Take care not to be deceived,” he said “because many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am he’ and ‘The time is near at hand.’ Refuse to join them.
vs.9 And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen, but the end is not so soon.”
vs.10 Then he said to them, “Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
vs.11 There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
vs.12 But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name
vs.13 – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness.
vs.14 Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence,
vs.15 because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict.
vs.16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death.
vs.17 You will be hated by all men on account of my name,
vs.18 but not a hair of your head will be lost.
vs.19 Your endurance will win you your lives.”
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from.
Please scroll down the page to read them.
Michel DeVerteuil : Michel, a Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, was director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: Thomas is on the theology faculty of Nottingham University
Sean Goan:Sean studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works now with Le Chéile.
Donal Neary SJ: Donal is editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina The Year of Luke
General Textual comments
This gospel passage is a collection of many different sayings of Jesus, all of them relevant to a situation of crisis in the present or looming in the future. You will recognize their truth from your experience of small as well as big crises.
In verses 5 and 6 the people are typical of us when we allow ourselves to be seduced by earthly glory, and Jesus is the voice of God reminding us of how short-lived it is.
You can take verse 7 with the preceding passage – we admit that earthly glory is short-lived but at least we want to know when it will end – or with verse 8, which describes the yearning for easy solutions to a deep crisis.
Verses 10 and 11 are typical of Bible teachings on the necessity of suffering before salvation.
Verses 12 to 15 show us the followers of Jesus trusting like him in the midst of persecution.
Verses 16 to 18 are promises that their trust is well founded, as his was.
Verse 19 is a little gem of a saying, true of life at every level.
Lord, we quite rightly wonder at human achievements today –
* the exploration of outer space and of subatomic particles;
* supermarkets and shopping centers stocked with goods of every kind;
* all the modern means of communication: smart phones, faxes, satellite television, the internet.
They are the temples of our modern world and we are like the disciples of Jesus,
remarking how they are adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings.
Remind us that all these things we stare at,
the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another.
“We remain in the midst of contradiction, in peace, knowing that it is fully solved, but that the solution is secret and will never be guessed until it is revealed.” …Julian of Norwich
Lord, we remember times of deep crisis in our lives – we felt isolated and alone
* a family break-up;
* we fell back into a sin we thought we were done with;
* we could not get out of depression;
* a national crisis seemed without solution.
Many came with easy solutions, saying, “This is it!”
and promising that the time of deliverance was near at hand.
But you sent us someone like Jesus who told us not to be frightened,
that these things must happen and the end was not so soon.
“The Church is still there. Everyone else may have moved, but the Church is right in the center.” …a Josephite priest in Los Angeles, May 1992
Lord, we thank you that in many parts of the world
where there are wars and revolutions,
where nation is fighting against nation and kingdom against kingdom,
where there are earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there,
fearful sights and great signs from heaven,
the followers of Jesus are not frightened
but remain where they are and continue to do his work,
knowing that these things are things that must happen,
but the end is not so soon.
“Politics encircles us like the coils of a snake from which one cannot get out no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with that snake.” …Gandhi
Lord, we thank you for those who enter public life
unafraid that they will be brought to judgement by everybody,
seeing it rather as an opportunity to bear witness.
“We may not be able to dictate to the world, but we must speak to the world out of our own frame of interpretation.” …Lloyd Best, Carifesta V, August 1992
Lord, we who belong to smaller nations
often feel ourselves standing before the great powers of the world
and being judged by them.
Give us the grace to discover the wisdom and eloquence
that you yourself have given us
and that no one can resist or contradict.
Lord, when we are young we think that we become great through our achievements.
Life has taught us the truth of Jesus’ words: it is by endurance that we win our lives.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
Introduction to the Celebration
Over the past months we have, each Sunday, being reading from St Luke’s telling of the good news of Jesus. We have heard him talk of how we are to live our lives, how we are to celebrate this meal, how we are to treat each other as baptised sisters and brothers. Today our thoughts move to the future: our future as individuals, as the community that is one body in Christ, and the ultimate destiny of the creation. As we come to the end of the year, it is a case that we now start thinking of ‘ends’ rather than ‘means’. We have been called by Jesus to move along our pilgrimage of life toward our final destination; so now let us fix our thoughts on that destination and ask the Father to forgive us our wanderings in other directions.
This is the opening of the Lukan version of ‘the synoptic apocalypse’ which is found in all three synoptic gospels. In both Matthew and Luke it follows the pattern found in Mark closely, and so it is an item which clearly had resonance in the early church in that both Matthew and Luke believed it had to be incorporated into their preaching. We have to read it as part of that strand of early Christianity that took over an apocalyptical outlook from their existing religious milieu in Second Temple. Given how diverse is the evidence for this outlook — not only this passage but the Book of Revelation, and a steady stream of such material which never became canonical but left its imprint on the church’s memory — we can conclude that this outlook was quite widespread among the first churches. However, this leaves a major question: was this future which was part of the message of John the Baptist, also part of the original message of Jesus? There is much in the gospels to suggest that this was a major point of difference between them: for John, the future was the great crunch from which the elect would escape; for Jesus, the future was the new creation of the Lord’s forgiveness. If this is the case what we have in the synoptic apocalypse is the position of a group who have moved from John to Jesus without realising that their apocalyptical outlook was something they had to leave behind. It is only by using such an hypothesis that we can account for the dissonance about the future which we find in the gospels: for the most part Jesus is preaching the coming of the Father’s kingdom of forgiving love, yet here we have the great crunch for all who are not part of the elect.
This dissonance produces a problem for our preaching. On the one hand, few mainstream Christians are prepared to take the apocalyptical approach that is found among fundamentalist TV evangelists; yet, this gospel does lend itself to that approach. On the other hand, if one ignores this gospel then it can appear that one is only ‘taking a partial view’ (even if such a partial view is probably closer to the preaching of Jesus. It is this confusion in message that has caused the tensions over ‘the end of the world’ that has afflicted Christianity down the centuries: do we look forward to a loving Father of mercy, or the stern patriarchal figure of impending wrath? So how can we preach this text, yet not contribute to the apocalyptic outlook which had always been firmly rejected by the church’s formal teaching?
One way is to concentrate comment on just the final verses of today’s lection: come what may, no matter how bad it might get, the universe is still loved by God and ‘not a hair of your head will be lost’. As such it is a story about hope in the face of adversity, rather than a piece of apocalyptic cosmology. This solution is, incidentally, not a new one; we see the same approach in use in the final sermon in the Didache (c 16), which was in use before Luke wrote his gospel, and which stressed the joy of the return of the Lord in conjunction with acknowledging the fears of those of an apocalyptic bent.
1. Karl Marx famously described religion as the opium of the people: a comforting message that distracted people from the horrors of life – and, as such, like most analgesics it could be said to be no bad thing. But the message of the gospel is radically at odds with any idea of a religion that it is there to quieten people down, act as a social glue to keep the show on the road, support the status quo, and help people to whistle past the graveyard. Just read the list of what will come whether we follow the way of the Lord or not: wars, revolutions, more wars, earthquakes, plagues, famines, and fearful sights. And you do not even have the consolation of thinking that these indicate the world is going to end; it seems as if there is just going to be more of the same. Then there are the sufferings that will be there only for believers: persecutions, imprisonment, treachery, family disarray, being reviled and even killed. This is not a very comforting religion and it does not preach comfort. Far from being dulling opium that might help one cope with the pain and stress of life, it is a call to open your eyes and view the suffering around us without any false hopes or illusions.
2. Yet it was not just Karl Marx that had not taken account of this aspect of Christianity: a failure to hear this part of the message of Jesus is all about us, both among those who reject his gospel, and among those who are loud in claiming to believe in his message.
3. On one side we have people who every time they hear about a disaster (natural or manmade) immediately say that ‘that shows there cannot be a god’ or ‘I cannot believe in a god as if there is a god such-and-such could not happen.’ They know the mind of God so well that they can know what God can and cannot do.
4. Then there are Christians who go round predicting the end of the world and giving timetables and sequences for predictions that show ‘the end is coming’. Again, these people know the mind and plans of God so well that they can tie God down to days and dates. The fact they get all these predictions wrong and have to start over afresh in each generations with their so-called ‘study of the bible’ does not seem to deter them. In fact, they think the scriptures are some sort of secret code that only they can crack, rather than the church’s records of its early faith.
5. In the face of all such people, there are those of us who have to tread the path of endurance. We do not know the future; we do not claim to know the mind of God or to fathom his mystery; rather in the midst of suffering to look to the Christ whose own path ended on the cross.
In following this path, seeking to love neighbour and God, walking humbly and acting for justice, we see through that suffering to the new life. We are people with eyes wide open, called to have moved beyond optimism and pessimism. But we are people of hope.
6. For us who fear his name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in is rays.
In the Jewish world of Jesus’ time one of the ways of speaking about God’s action in the world was known as apocalyptic. This type of language is found in the gospels when the evangelists are speaking about the end of time. The imagery is not be taken literally but is symbolic of the hard times that people might have to endure before the final victory of good over evil. This reading from Luke looks towards the second coming of Christ and Jesus warns his followers not be distracted but to persevere in their faith for no harm will come to them. The preaching of Jesus is never aimed at frightening people into conversion so there is nothing Christian about using the Bible to predict a catastrophic end to the world.
It is inevitable, as we reach the end of another liturgical year, that we think about the passage of time and what the future holds. For some it may be full of promise, for others it may appear bleak indeed. However, as Christians our view of the future is not one either of naive optimism nor of a dark fatalism. We do not know what the coming year holds for each of us but we do know that if we keep Christ at our side then we will not lose heart whatever befalls us. The Biblical view of the future is one steeped in the hope brought by the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over sin and death.
The Feet of the Sun
The imagery of the readings is frightening and cannot be easily understood. Maybe one aspect is of the contrasts we live with
If you look at the sun in the evening, you often see the rays of light hitting the Earth. In Irish they are called ‘cosa na greinne’ or the feet of the sun. We can think of them as God’s feet walking along our scorched and wounded earth: through the poverty and the illness of his world, through fields full of landmines and unexploded bombs, the rays of light take their pilgrimage from heaven through our world, which needs the light of God so badly.
Even in persecution the presence of God is near. Even in betrayal and in the conflicts that arise over the word of God and how to live the gospel, God is near. He never abandons his people. We can almost sum up the message of the prophets as ‘God does not abandon us’.
In years when the Church throughout the world was stripped of almost all except its relationship with Jesus, we know that despite the faults, sins and weaknesses and the huge need for renewal, God is near in the word of Jesus Christ. It is in listening to his word and interpreting it together for today that we will find our true way forward as his community.
Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come
and your will be done on earth as in heaven.