•Malachi 3:19-20a • 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 • Luke 21:5-19•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Apocalyptic literature conveys ideas or images about the end of the world and implies the obliteration of the cosmos. I am disappointed with the results of the recent election. But, I disagree with a few of my friends whose verbal response sounds so apocalyptic. Their response suggests the election of our new president marks “the beginning of the end time.”
There are brief passages in the Christian Bible that do suggest the end of the world. They indicate the second coming of Jesus will signal the end time. But think of this. Jesus was born and lived among us. He died. God raised him to new life! Isn’t that “the” second coming?
Since the apocalyptic texts in the gospels were written, they have prompted occasional forecasts that the world is about to end. In the late 1800’s, two Montana newspapers – one in Helena and one in Butte, printed articles announcing “the end time.” We are still here!
Jesus of the gospels is not a prophet of doom, foretelling “the end time.” He came “that you may have life to the fullest.” Keep that in mind while contemplating these apocalyptic texts.
Such texts are not foretelling the future. Luke wrote his gospel around the mid to late 80’s of the Common Era. By then, all of the events described in his apocalyptic narratives had been their lived experience and become the stuff of memory. The Temple in all its beauty was no more and Peter and Paul had been martyred 15 years earlier.
Luke includes this apocalyptic text in his larger gospel to address the situation and challenges of his own community. The after effects of the Jewish War were devastating. His community had been expelled from the synagogues. Their adversaries were many.
Luke is reminding his peers that Christ is in all and through all, and because of Christ they ought not be controlled by fear or dread. He is calling his community to walk with confidence into the future. The text speaks to all of us, and perhaps most significantly to any among us who feel the election of our new President-elect marks the beginning of the end.
Let me remind you. We, and the Cosmos in which we live, is in a constant process of evolution. The towering mountains and promontories of Glacier Park were carved by ice and snow and still are shaped by landslides. The mesas and cliffs of the southwest were carved by the tides of ancient seas. To the human eye these look precarious, but they stand, and have stood, for ages. The brilliant leaves of Autumn have fallen to the ground, and our trees now stand naked. Soon snow will blanket our streets and sidewalks. Evolution is ongoing!
Our scientists have warned us about climate change. They may be wrong. However I think we act foolishly if we ignore their warning and the changes we see occurring. I mean the increased frequency and intensity of tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and forest fires. I mean the rising sea levels. Earth is not on the doorstep of doom. The human family may be.
Our new government elected to take office in January may choose to ignore climate change. If we allow them to do things that are bad for us and for Earth; if we are complacent and let them have their way, then maybe my friends will be correct about this election marking “the end time.”
As citizens, all of us have an important role in our government. During the next four years that role may or may not present a very demanding challenge to us. Faith motivates us to set aside speculations that generate fear. In his gospel Luke is reminding us that Christ is in all and through all. He reminds us that because of Christ we ought not be controlled by fear or dread. He calls us to walk with confidence into the future and to direct our life energy to the work of Christ – enabling “the reign of God,” “God’s new reality” to continue emerging among us. That has been the task of our ancestors of faith in every generation for two hundred years.