The Horseman of the Apocalypse, Dali 1970, private collection.
[Jesus said] “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” Luke 21:17-18.
Today is the penultimate Sunday of the church’s year, next Sunday being the solemnity of Christ the King, with the first Sunday of Advent following. So the church turns to ultimate thoughts and events. From the earliest days we have been taught that this whole world and all its glory will end in an apocalypse of destruction. Many times in the last 2000 years some have declared they know when that will be. Yet we are still here, waiting. There have been occasions, however, when it seemed that this end time was, indeed, upon us. A few years after the death and resurrection of the Lord for example, the Jews revolted against the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, only to be defeated and the holy temple torched. A second revolt some years after that resulted in the total destruction of the temple and all the Jews expelled from Jerusalem, whose name was even changed. Those occasions must have seemed to them to herald the end time. But they didn’t. I can imagine that the eastern front in the second world war, with Germany invading Russia and the resulting monumental death toll, and the revenge and destruction wreaked against the German population when Russia defeated Germany must have seemed to those involved that this was the apocalypse. But no, it wasn’t, though it certainly seems to have been a ghastly preview of it. So we have experienced events in history which seemed very like the picture painted in Scripture about the end of the ages. Today Jesus teaches how we should confront such events with a Christian eye and behavior: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” I imagine Jesus was talking about our inner strength and conviction, with him standing beside us, able to withstand anything.
Even though this apocalyptic end time has not actually happened yet, there will come a time for all of us when a personal end time will approach, our own death. All of the above may, indeed, seem to fall upon us in some way or another. There will be a terrible realization that this present life is ending, the prospect of complete annihilation is inevitable, and we can do nothing to prevent it. That will be our personal and individual apocalypse. That’s when today’s gospel should be remembered and taken to heart, and strength and conviction take over from terror and fear. And today’s first reading reminds us that if there are obstacles which might prevent us from allowing the Lord to stand next to us at that time, we have the opportunity now to do something about it and prepare for it. It will be the ultimate trial each of us must go through, the ultimate test of our belief. Jesus will be standing next to us, as he says; do we believe that he will, in fact, be there?
So as the church’s year comes to an end, we faithful are invited to consider our own inevitable finale to a life of faith and love. We believe in a God of love, of compassion, of forgiveness. One who listens and hears us. One who gives divinity to us at communion. We are asked to respond in kind, both to ourselves and to those around us, to all humanity. We are still in the here and now. A little reminder of why we are here, and what is to eventually come, should focus us on God’s expectations for each of us and invite us to ensure we act, think and behave as a child of God.
A Child of God, Poetry About Heavenly God.
Reflections on the following Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
Please forward this webpage on to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.