Today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke (21:5-19) comes from the discourse on the future that Jesus gives as his days in Jerusalem draw to their climax. In the discourse looks beyond his own death and resurrection to the time of the Church. In this period the disciples will have their own “passion” to undergo in the shape of the trials that await them in the long period before the kingdom of God is finally in place.
The disciples will be persecuted and hauled before law courts. Most poignantly, they will suffer division and betrayal among themselves and within their own families.
In all this they should draw comfort from knowing that Jesus has foreseen such trials and placed them within the context of events leading up to the overthrow of evil and the triumph of God at the time of his own return as cosmic Lord.
The time of the Church has extended vastly beyond anything foreseen by the early believers. We retain the doctrine of the “Second Coming” in our creeds not necessarily because we believe that Jesus will soon appear on the clouds of heaven but because it asserts the eventual triumph of God’s rule in the universe.
Until then, all is provisional. Wars, famines and earthquakes continue. Those who work for justice and a more human life for all people face hostility, imprisonment, even death. There will always be grounds for disillusionment and loss of faith. The Lord’s encouraging message applies as much to our time as it did to the early generations of believers.
Fr Brendan Byrne SJ