This past January I made a trip to the Holy Land, and while I was there, I went to the Mount of Olives that overlooks the city of Jerusalem, the central part of Jerusalem where all of the Churches were and where the temple used to be. As I was sitting there reflecting on the scriptures, I tried to think back to that time and think of what our Lord may have been looking at as he predicted the coming tribulation he describes in Today’s Gospel. From the Mount of Olives, our Lord would have seen a few things. First, he would have seen the temple, a magnificent structure and the center of Jewish worship and their religion. He can also see some other things, the place where he will be crucified and die, and the tomb he will be buried and rise again.
Our Lord saw the great harm that would come to him, but he also foresaw the great destruction that would take place there about forty years later. What you may or may not know, the Romans attacked the city of Jerusalem in the year 70AD, and they destroyed most of the city and the Temple. While he was sitting looking at this magnificent structure, the temple he knew in 40 short years would be gone.
As we are approaching the end of the liturgical year, we hear a lot about the coming destruction and the coming of the son of Man in our readings. When we read these readings, it can be scary to hear what our Lord says and what other books say about the coming destruction. “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Our first reading as well speaks about the prophecy of a destructive and challenging time. “It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.”
We may not live, to see this time, and in some ways events like this can happen in our times. Right now in California, there is a tremendous wildfire that has already killed more than 60 and hundreds of people are missing. The 20th century saw two major world wars where tens of millions of people died in each. We can look at this, read the scripture about the coming tribulation that will face us before our Lord comes again and may lose our faith and hope.
For some people in the world, they are facing some of this tribulation now. Some people live in extreme poverty and are not sure if they will have enough to survive. Other countries are at war, and civilians fear for their lives daily. We are blessed to live in a very safe country and won’t face this tribulation as a society. However, there can still be times and circumstances in our lives that makes things difficult. We may lose a loved one unexpectedly, as we get older our health begins to deteriorate, and experience can be challenging, we could lose our jobs, lose property to floods, so many things can happen in our lives that can shake our faith and our hope.
Again I think back to our Lord looking at the place of his crucifixion, and the temple that would not stand in a generation. It would be easy for our Lord’s faith to be shaken at that moment, for his hope to fade away, but our Lord sees beyond the destruction, he sees beyond the tribulation. Out of the crucifixion of his body will come our salvation. He knows that after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem the Church would come and spread through the entire world, and he too knows that when he comes again, and all of the tribulations we will face at the end of time will bring about the new heaven and the new earth.
We too can look at what is to come in our lives with faith and hope. All of us no matter how healthy we are now, how rich or poor we are, our age, our social condition, or anything else we will have to face suffering and eventually we will pass from this world and die. However, our death is not the end. When our Lord does come again, he will come to bring all of us to our eternal reward in heaven. Where we will not have to face trial, tribulation, or pain.
What we are called to do now is to stay awake and aware for the day our Lord may come. The Church provides us with the tools and the means to keep ready. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, take some time to see Fr. Paul or another priest. Stay close to our Lord in prayer, read the scriptures, and if you can go to mass more often. Our best preparation for our coming suffering and eventual death is to follow after our Lord, and his example. He has redeemed suffering and death that through it we are brought to salvation. May we face any suffering, pain or trial with confidence that through it we will receive salvation.