A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Hope in the midst of tragedy

It is true that many people around the world felt great compassion for those who suffered the devastating typhoon in the Phillipines, especially for those who lived in the town of Taclaban.  Television news reports showed piles of wood that used to be homes.  You could see that sadness was on the faces of many.  It appeared as if the area had been  thoroughly bombed.

In Luke’s gospel (Luke 21:5-19) an account of destruction is also described.  But the destruction is to come in the future, and the  principal cause will be human behavior.  Jesus overhears a conversation speaking about the magnificent adornment of the Jerusalem Temple, a focal point of concern for Jews.  His comment tells listeners that the Temple will one day be completely destroyed.  The people ask for dates, namely, “When will this happen?”

Instead of replying with specific dates, Jesus answers with causal human events in “apocacalyptic” language.  [Apocalyptic language is, basically, persecution literature.  It discusses events via hidden images about future destruction, for example, see the “Book of Revelation.”]

What does Jesus say will happen?  First of all, he speaks of human deceit.  There will be folks who say they come in his name, speak of destruction, but do not offer hope.  Don’t listen to them.  Secondly, there will be polarization and awful things done to the planet.  The “truth,” most likely, may well not enter the conversational equation.  Thirdly,  any committed follower of Christ will be persecuted simply for being a committed follower.

However, in spite of the tragedies listed above, Jesus does indeed offer hope.  How does he do so?  First of all, he will give wisdom in speaking to the seriously committed Christian.  We simply have to read the first few chapters of the book of Acts to see how the committed followers of Jesus were able to speak to their challengers.  And secondly, he made it clear that those who affirm Jesus in the midst of conflict will indeed be affirmed by Jesus himself.  This is much like the “Stand by me” approach to reality.

What can we learn from this gospel reading?  We know that throughout life bad things will happen, but the  baptized committed Christian will have this sense of hope which means that if we treat others as Jesus has taught us, then we will have an ongoing relationship with Jesus.

And what does that mean?  It means that with the sense of hope, as committed Chistians, we can overcome the deceit of others and encounter the truth in polarized situations.  But that committment must be permanent.  It is well to keep in mind the final words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading:  “By your perseverance you will make your life secure.”  Perseverance comes from hope. Hope comes about when we “stand by” Jesus.


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