As has been the case for the past week or more, we are treated to two more apocalyptic passages in today’s liturgy. In the first reading, we hear of two reapers. The first, who looks like a Son of man, uses a sickle to harvest the good deeds of the earth. The second, who also uses a sickle to harvest the evil deeds of the earth.
The occasion for Jesus' proclamations in today's Gospel passage is a visit to the Temple of Jerusalem which was, by most accounts, one of the most beautiful structures of the world. The men who were responsible for its design and its decoration were revered, and the building itself was a source of national pride. It also gave the people a sense of security as their faith told them God dwelt within its confines. Its destruction in 70 A.D. (approximate date) was, therefore, viewed as a national calamity.
Consider then that the Gospel of St. Luke as well as the Book of Revelation were almost certainly written after this cataclysmic event. Drawing upon Greek philosophy, which taught that the birth of new historical eras were preceded by times of terror and travail, the sacred authors viewed such events as signs of the end of the world. However, it is important to remember that the end also signals a beginning. Just as this liturgical year will end on Saturday, the next liturgical year will begin with the First Sunday of Advent.
Certain individuals and groups still look at events such as the recent fires in California and the hurricanes that destroyed communities in Texas this past summer and any of a host of other such events as signs that our world is about to come to an end. Jesus tells his disciples to avoid being misled. That warning applies to us as well. It is far more important to focus on the beginning of the new rather than the end of the old.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.