All Worldly Things Will Pass, God's Love Endures
by Rev. Robert Wagner
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down."
Then they asked him, "Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen"? He answered, "See that you not be deceived, for many will come in may name, saying, "I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified, for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
"Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 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."
This Sunday's Gospel account is situated a few days after Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover feast. As we recall each Palm Sunday, He entered the city to cries of joyful praise as His fellow disciples and pilgrims proclaimed, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord" (Lk 19:38). Now Jesus is amid the crowds again, listening to them speak of the splendor of the temple that rises above them.
This Sunday’s Gospel account is situated a few days after Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover feast. As we recall each Palm Sunday, He entered the city to cries of joyful praise as His fellow disciples and pilgrims proclaimed, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Lk 19:38). Now Jesus is amid the crowds again, listening to them speak of the splendor of the temple that rises above them.
Without question, the temple was an impressive site. Its exterior was made from gleaming white marble and covered with large plates of gold and expensive ornaments. To the pilgrim approaching Jerusalem, the temple towered above the city, brilliant in the sunlight, displaying all the glory one could expect of the house of God. Admiring its beauty and gathered around their prophet and king, we cannot help but sense the joy and pride of the disciples of Jesus.
Their contentment, however, likely was shattered by a sobering prediction from Jesus. Referring to the temple, He said, “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone” (Lk 21:6). Considering the temple was constructed of marble blocks as large as 40 feet in length and weighing more than 500 tons, likely this seemed startling in its impossibility. In another sense, however, it was more shocking, for how could the Lord allow His house to be destroyed? Without the temple, where would Israel offer sacrifices for their sins or offerings of thanksgiving?
Next, Jesus tells of further turmoil, including natural disasters and wars, the coming of false prophets bent on deceiving the faithful, and even the persecution and martyrdom of His disciples at the hands of those they trust. Along with the foretelling of the temple destruction, these troubling predictions had to bring discouragement into the hearts of His disciples that day. If we were to hear the same prediction for our own future, we, too, might begin to doubt the plan that God has for our salvation.
The disciples of Jesus did not yet know and understand what would take place in the coming days, when through His death and resurrection, Jesus would forgive the sins of the world and destroy the power of death. In Him, the Old Covenant of the people of Israel would come to pass as the New Covenant embraced all people; the temple of Jerusalem — destroyed by the Roman army in A.D. 70 — also would come to pass and find its fulfillment in the universal church.
The eyes of faith are needed to see the glorious victory of the cross, because to the world, it seems as a defeat. History shows us, however, that God often allows suffering and destruction to bring about His glory and draw us to His loving embrace.
As Christians, we know the full story. We know the victory is ours. Jesus assures His disciples that “not a hair on your head will be destroyed” (Lk 21:18). Since He speaks of coming persecution and martyrdom, we know that Jesus does not mean that His disciples will be free from suffering. Instead, He guarantees that with faith in Him and trust in His love, even in death, we will not experience defeat. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (cf. Rom 8:35-39).
God created all the things of this world. In them we see His power, goodness, beauty and order. But while we may find the splendor of God in the world, we know that we do not place our faith in such things. Magnificent — even sacred — structures, material possessions, political leaders and systems of government, the people who surround us — even the world itself — all of these will pass. The day will come when not one stone will be left upon another, and there will be just one thing that remains: our God, Whose love is everlasting.
Jesus offers us this promise: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk 21:19). Let us pray for the faith that sees past the glory, the suffering and all the passing things of this world, and clings to the everlasting love of our triune God. In this is our salvation and joy.
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