Today’s Gospel from Luke opens with the prediction of Jesus concerning the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. The temple is a marvel of a gem for the Jews, a symbol of their identity as God’s people, a sign of God’s presence and an embodiment of their cherished hopes. They believe that as long as the temple stands, they will always be protected by God. Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple (fulfilled in 70 AD and only the Wailing Wall remains today) was a direct attack to their belief.
Jesus also predicts that the end-time is presaged by natural and man-made calamities but that these will not immediately bring the world to its end. Jesus warns against false prophets who teach otherwise, those who sow fear in people’s hearts and feed on people’s anxiety by pretending to know the final date and time. Time and again, usually after a major catastrophe or disaster, rumors about the end of the world fly thick and fast.
In our Second Reading, St. Paul who waits for the return of the Lord embarks upon in active ministry for the Gospel. He does not fold his hands and wait passively but rather works hard to the point of death in bringing the Gospel to the farthest ends of the earth. He sees in work a means to freedom. He has not desired to depend on anyone for food and thus maintains his freedom toward all. When we have the mission of spreading the Gospel, this advantage of freedom has a profound importance in our life as witnesses of God’s truth.
There are always great challenges in giving testimony to the words and deeds of Jesus whose real meaning is illumined by the long tradition of the people of God guided by the Church teaching. When we try to bring Christian hope amidst conflicting and discouraging circumstances, we at the same time arouse hostile reactions on the part of the “world.” But Jesus gives his disciples a language and a wisdom to which the world responds with bad faith but the open-minded respond with the desire to seek and learn.
Seeking and learning the wisdom God leads us to strengthen our resolve to remain courageous and faithful followers of Jesus. Despite the grim shadow of persecution and the negative and destructive effects of false claims concerning the end-time, Jesus counsels people against anxiety, assuring them of God’s presence and providential care: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”