Monday, November 24, 2008

Gospel for Tuesday, 34th and Final Week in Ordinary Time

Optional Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr
Old Calendar: St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr

From: Luke 21:5-11

Discourse on the Destruction of Jerusalem and the End of the World

[5] And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, He (Jesus) said, [6] "As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." [7] And they asked Him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?" [8] And He said, "Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He!' and, 'The time is at hand!' Do not go after them. [9] And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once."

[10] Then He said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; [11] there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven."


5-36. The disciples are in awe of the magnificence of the temple, and Jesus uses the occasion to give a long discourse, known as the "eschatological discourse" because it has to do with the last days of the world. The account given here is very similar to those in the other Synoptic Gospels (cf. Mt 24:1-51; Mk 13:1-37). The discourse deals with three inter-connected subjects--the destruction of Jerusalem (which took place some forty years later), the end of the world, andthe second coming of Christ in glory and majesty. Jesus, who also predicts here the persecution of the Church will experience, exhorts His disciples to be patient, to pray and be watchful.

Our Lord speaks here in the style and language of prophecy, using images taken from the Old Testament; also, in this discourse prophecies which are going to be fulfilled very soon are mixed in with others which have to do with the end of the world. It is not our Lord's intention to satisfy people's curiosity about future events, but to protect them from being discouraged and scandalized about what is going to happen in the days immediately ahead. This explains why He exhorts them: "Take heed that you are not led astray" (v. 8); "do not be tempted" (v. 9); "watch at all times" (v. 34).

8. On hearing that Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, the disciples ask what sign will be given as a warning of these events (vv. 5-7). Jesus answers by telling them "not to be led astray," that is to say, not to expect any warning; not to be misled by false prophets; to stay faithful to Him. These false prophets will come along claiming to be the Messiah ("I am He!"). Our Lord's reply in fact refers to two events which in the Jewish mind were interrelated--the destruction of the Holy City and the end of the world. This is why He goes on to speak of both events and implies that there will be a long gap between the two; the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem are a kind of sign or symbol of the catastrophes which will mark the end of the world.

9-11. Our Lord does not want His disciples to confuse just any catastrophe--famine, earthquake, war--or even persecution with the signals of the end of the world. He exhorts them quite clearly: "Do not be tempted," because although all these has to happen, "the end will not be at once;" in spite of the difficulties of all kinds the Gospel will spread to the ends of the earth. Difficulties should not paralyze the preaching of the faith.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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