When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by 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 of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. (Luke 21:5-19)
The 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
The scripture quoted above is the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, November 17, 2019. The disciples are looking at the magnificent Temple that would be later destroyed by the Roman legions of Titus Vespasianus in 70 A.D.
‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
That prophecy came to pass in 70 A.D. but if we carefully consider the words of Jesus we will notice: ‘not one stone will be left upon another‘ and one meticulous observer may call to mind the retention wall that is still standing: the ‘whaling wall’ where observant Jews go to lament the loss of their last Temple. That wall was a motive of admiration for Jesus’ disciples. The wall still stands one massive stone upon another, silently indicating that there is a part of Jesus’ prophetic words that is still waiting to be fulfilled.
‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
In the years following the destruction of the Temple, many false messiahs came instigating rebellion against the Romans. They all ended badly. In the end, the Antichrist will come and repeat those words: “I am” (ἐγώ εἰμι, ego eimi) the Greek translation of the words Moses heard while standing before the burning bush: I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3:14) the ineffable name of the Creator. Yes, the Antichrist will make himself into a god and —according to some saints and prophets— will stand on the Mount of Olives and preach just like Jesus, only to be struck by a lightning of the real God and die.
‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons …’
Before the world descends into a fiery chaos of wars, insurrections, and revolution, the Church will be persecuted. We are living in times when the persecution of the Church in various countries around the world dwarfs the murderous times of the Roman Empire. My confessor said to me today in a very somber tone: ‘We are living in prophetic times Our Lord is near. Our liberation is approaching fast.’ However, in a vain effort to cover the sun with one hand, many are still clinging to the old fatwa “no one knows the day and the hour.” Of course, no one knows but that is precisely the purpose of the signs: to know the general times. The disciples knew that they would not be given a date and hour and that is why they asked for signs. St. Vincent Ferrer observes that God in his mercy, always provides signs:
By study of Holy Scripture and by factual experience we know that when any great and heavy affliction is about to come on the world, often some warning sign is shown in the sky or in the upper air. And this happens by the mercy of God, so that people forewarned of impending tribulation by means of these signs, through prayer and good works, may obtain in the tribunal of mercy a reversal of the sentence passed against them by God the judge in the heavenly courts; or at least by penance and amendment of life, may prepare themselves against the impending affliction. (Angel of the Judgment: A Life of Vincent Ferrer, by S.M.C., Ave Maria Press. Chapter XI, pp. 102-117. Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent)
‘You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.’
The Hebrews that followed Moses out of Egypt had to have faith. Pharaoh and his firstborn perished along with many Egyptians but the Hebrews that obeyed and endured the long trip were all saved. One detail many miss: inside the multitude of Hebrews that crossed the Red Sea, there were two who carried the seed of the Messiah. Christ was among them in that form and above them, guiding them out of slavery to the glorious possession of the Promised Land.
Today He is among us in the Eucharist, our secret possession. While we still can, before the greatest sign is taken from us by the enemies of God, before the Church goes into eclipse: make wise use of the Sacraments and never worry one bit about being hated. That very hate and persecution is a sign of our coming liberation. Endure and keep walking with Christ until you see the threshold of your eternal inheritance.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)