In our Gospel reading for today, after Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple, people ask Him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” And Jesus talks about wars and insurrections, earthquakes and famines and plagues, “and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” And the reading ends there.
With divisions and unrest and seemingly increasing natural disasters amid concerns about climate change, it is natural to wonder whether these are the times Jesus is speaking of. In fact, Jesus says, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my 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.”
For me, our first reading from Daniel, and the beginning of our Gospel reading give us some perspective about thinking about the end times. In our reading from Daniel, the prophet interprets a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians. The king’s dream is actually a prophecy of the end of earthly empires and the coming of the Messianic kingdom. As I mentioned before, the beginning of our Gospel reading has Jesus predicting the destruction of the Temple. Both these passages speak to the transitory nature of earthly things, even buildings of worship. We believers put our faith, not in a what, but in a who, the One who has loved us into existence, and whose love for us never ends.
And so, even though Jesus speaks of wars and insurrections and nation rising up against nation, we are called to continue to work for justice and peace. Why bother? Because the One who has loved us has called us to love God and love each other in return. And in love, we need not fear.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.