Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C
Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19
As I mentioned before, our family went to Italy over the summer, and while my wife and I had been there before, my son was able to see the ruins of ancient Rome for the first time. Rome, one of the greatest powers that the world has ever know, came to ruin after only about 500 years. Of course, all physical things built by humans eventually meet their end, and people that have many things often lose a lot of sleep over what will happen to their possessions. People are rightfully concerned about the future of themselves, their family, their country, and the world, and they are anxious that they don’t lose what they have. Jesus in today’s Gospel is dealing with some of that same anxiety in the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The Gospel today comes from Luke, and almost all biblical scholars believe that Luke wrote it after the year 70. Why is this important? Because 70 AD was the year that the Romans demolished the Second Temple in Jerusalem. That year the Romans under Titus retook Jerusalem after four years of what is known today as the Great Jewish Revolt and knocked the temple to the ground. This was the second temple that Israel had destroyed. The First Temple that King Solomon built had been destroyed by the Babylonians 600 years before that. Luke therefore knew about this when he recorded these events, and this gives special meaning to Jesus’ comments concerning the destruction of the Temple – not so much as an I-told-you-so quality as much as further proof that God has a plan, and Jesus is at the center of it.
For the Israelites at the time of Christ, the Temple was the focal point of their relationship with God. It was where they went to sacrifice and pay homage to the God that delivered them. We Christians know that this all changed when God came into the world and with the incarnation became human. The new focal point is from that point on the temple of Christ’s physical body. That temple the Romans also tore down by putting it on a cross. But it was raised back up, and now that temple exists forever. It exists right here, right now, there in the tabernacle, both here and in all other churches around the world. The Eastern Orthodox Christians today refer to the Eucharist as the Third Temple, which really is a great way of looking at it. And earthly tabernacle in each church sanctuary to house the eternal temple of Christ's perfect sacrifice which won our redemption. It adds meaning and context to our adoration as we continue with our Eucharistic Revival. We have in this sacrament a Temple which, unlike the Jerusalem Temple, can never be destroyed.
It is also a lesson on where our hearts and minds should be. It is another lesson on the importance of living a life dedicated to God and looking past the fleeting material things of this world. Christ predicts that bad things will come, but those who live by God’s law will in the end prevail, not because of what they have but because of who they are and what they do. This is the same message as the Book of Malachi in the first reading: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” [Mal 3:20a NAB]. We are going to worry – that is part of being human. But we must do our best to count our blessings and move forward towards God’s promise by carrying out his will.
I learned something interesting when I was preparing for today. The Book of Malachi, where we get today’s first reading, is not from a prophet by the name of Malachi, which had always been my assumption. It turns out that Malachi in Hebrew simply means “my messenger.” In other words, it is just another phrase to be used for “a prophet of God.” Now where I thought this was relevant to us today is the metaphor it brings to our celebration of Veterans Day. We listen today, as have the Christian and Jewish people throughout history, to this nameless prophet carrying out the dictates of God, bringing God's word to the people of Israel and now to us. Last Friday, we celebrated as a nation the many millions of nameless people who have carried out the directives of their country’s elected leaders, bringing safety and security to the people of this land. They put aside the cares they had for their own safety and security and were willing to serve the interests of others. Well today, we will ask them, at the end of Mass, not to be so nameless, but to stand and be recognized by those of us who are grateful for their willingness to serve. They trusted in the Lord’s promise at the end of the Gospel that no matter what happened to them, even to the point of death, that by their perseverance they would secure their lives. That is true faith, and we salute it today.
As we continue with our Liturgy of the Eucharist, may we be tabernacles of God, receiving Christ into our body and into our lives, and thereby ensuring our souls will never be destroyed, although our physical bodies go the way of all things on earth. Let us pray for our veterans, especially those currently in the service and those who are still dealing with the lingering cost of their service both mentally and physically – may they be rewarded for their service to others. May we all worry a little less about what we have and want to have, and a little more about those things that truly matter in life, making ourselves temples to God that can never be destroyed.