GOSPEL REFLECTION

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time- A Gospel Reflection

THE COMFORTING AND THE AFFLICTING WORD OF THE LORD

A Reflection on Luke 21:5-19 — 33rd Sunday, OT

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of an apocalyptic scenario that shall herald his return. The Jerusalem temple shall be destroyed. There shall be persecutions, famines, plagues, earthquakes, and wars. These scenes somehow reflect the life situation of persecuted Christians in the first century Roman Empire, particularly during the writing of Luke’s Gospel (c. 80-85 CE). By then the temple had already been destroyed at least ten years before (c. 70 CE). Most of the followers of Jesus were then mercilessly persecuted on account of their resolute witnessing to the Gospel (e.g. Revelation). But others tolerated the repression of the Romans and even submissively cooperated with them (e.g. Rom 13). The First Letter of Peter even encourages slaves to endure the harsh treatments and beatings of their masters on account of the belief that God will reward them (cf. 1 Peter 2:18-20). As in many other apocalyptic texts in the Scriptures, the Gospel Reading has two-pronged purpose, which is best captured by a famous slogan of editorial writers: “To comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” The first purpose, namely—to encourage the persecuted Christians—is quite explicit in the passage. The Lord exhorted them not to be afraid in the face of persecutions. They must instead endure all difficulties because the Lord would come to their rescue. However, the second purpose, namely—to rouse up those who submitted to the oppressive rule of Rome—is only implicit in the passage. That what has been believed to be an indestructible temple gets badly ruined, with no stone left upon another, intimates that no man-made structure lasts. That nations rise against nations or kingdoms against kingdoms suggests that no empire, including the seemingly unconquerable Roman Empire, lasts for they will end up destroying each other. What lasts is the word of the risen Lord, particularly his assurance that by their endurance they would be saved. Today, a lot of our fellowmen find themselves in war-torn and persecuted parts of the world. The Lord’s assurance in the Gospel particularly strikes a chord with those whose homes and families got struck by rockets in Gaza or in Syria. We who are living in relatively peaceful and affluent societies may have become indifferent to the sufferings of our fellowmen in many parts of the world. If this were the case, may the word of the Lord afflict or disturb us that we may do our share in helping those who suffer. We may not have the capacity to put an end to regimes that have caused unrests and sufferings in war-torn nations. Nonetheless, we can help to bring about peace and to bring an end to the culture of death in our little ways. Fostering positivity in our homes and workplaces can already be of help. —lazaronerviteosa—

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