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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
The sense of immediacy that many early Christians felt about Christ’s second coming is evident in Paul’s Letters and the fervor of early martyrs. Each generation since then has lived with the hope that He will return soon, in a way that will draw the suffering, warring, sin and death to an end. Yet we know neither the hour nor the day of His return. So we are given Christ’s instructions for how to live in the world, seeking to transform it to reflect better the Kingdom of God.
For many Christians, especially the young and eager, impatience with the world as it is leads to anxiety, cynicism or doubt about Christ’s promises. What to make of all the war, famine, and suffering? What sort of God would sit idly by, watching the world unravel before His eyes? “Enough of concerns about some life with God in the future. We need to fight and advocate for the rights and needs of people here!” The Kingdom of God can quickly turn into trying to build a kingdom here on earth.
In a famous letter to a disillusioned young activist, Thomas Merton wrote:
The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth; and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments.
Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration, and confusion. The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process.
To be clear, we Catholic Christians are called to corporal works of mercy, living our faith in concrete love of neighbor. But we must keep our eyes fixed on the hereafter, as Christ reminds us in today’s Gospel. Let the grace of today be to place into God’s hands whatever hopes, fears, or anxieties we hold today, trusting that He is laboring and bringing to completion His plan for salvation.
—Joseph Simmons, S.J.
Lord, deepen our understanding of the insight of Thomas Merton: “The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process.”
It is our desire, Lord, to strengthen our resolve to hope when darkness tries to triumph; it is our desire to persevere, to stay faithful to your call of discipleship. And should our dedication to people or to programs fall short of our efforts, we must remember that God will make “something good out of it in some way we cannot see.”
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!