Thirty-third Sunday, Year C, 13 November, 2022: Malachi 3:19-20a; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19
At the end of the Liturgical year, we celebrate cryptic gospels forecasting doom. To what does Jesus refer? The destruction of Jerusalem? The judgment of God? The advent of the Messianic age? The end of the world? By the time his words were written down, they had already been interpreted by a couple of generations of believers and taken out of their context.
What remains clear, however, is Jesus’ warning not to jump to conclusions when disasters hem us in: See that you not be deceived, he insists. We are not to trust the interpretations of self-proclaimed authorities who would leave us intimidated.
Jesus never answers the question, when any of this will happen. Elsewhere Jesus admits that only the Father knows, and does not disclose that to the Son. And yet some of our elected officials, who cannot predict the outcome of an election, claim that they are ushering in the Second Coming—as if they can know what the Son of God does not know. In my lifetime, I don’t know how many ends-of-the world and Second Comings have been predicted. To my knowledge, none of them actually occurred.
What Jesus does tell us is that the world as we know it is not permanent. Certainly the world, that network of specific people, values and expectations, I was born into over seventy-two years ago, no longer exists. When I was born, the rural, low-tech world my grandparents had been born into no longer existed. Jesus warns us that nothing we humans know is permanent. Everything comes to an end, in the sense of it ceasing to be.
But there is another sense of the word “end,” indicating, the goal, the purpose, the fulfillment of something or someone’s potential. If what we know is not permanent, it slips away as it morphs into something more, as it tends to its fulfillment into a wholly other reality.
Could there be a better introduction to Advent?