Stunning Words, Stunning Signs

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Illustration by Frank Kacmarcik, OblSB, Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.

With the cataclysmic effects of both a global pandemic and a changing climate, the end of the world doesn’t seem as remote as we once thought. Some people believe we are seeing apocalyptic signs that the end is near. Others go so far as to stir up fear with messages of impending doom and calamity.  

Through the lens of this present time, today’s Gospel also feels less remote. At first, we may think Jesus is definitely predicting the end of the world. But a more careful reading reveals that he is speaking about the temple “adorned with costly stones” (still being built during his lifetime). Aware of the political climate of his day, Jesus warns about the temple’s potential destruction. Indeed, that would seem like the end of the world to the Jews. Not surprisingly, they ask: “When will this disaster happen and what will be the warning signs?” (Keep in mind that the temple had been destroyed by the time Luke wrote his Gospel.)  

Jesus speaks a reassuring word to Luke’s audience: “Oh, don’t be deceived! These things—wars, earthquakes, famines, and plagues—have always been a part of human history.” And then Jesus speaks the most stunning of words: “Do not be terrified”—for you know not the day or the hour when the world will end. How reassuring is that in the context of Luke’s apocalyptic language? 

Do not be afraid! Do not let your fear of “mighty signs from the sky” hide the signs and wonders God is doing all around us, all the time. In turn, let us be signs of God’s kingdom this day and every day. 

© Liturgical Press.

Sr. Ephrem Hollerman

Sr. Ephrem Hollermann, OSB, is a former prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota, and professor emerita of theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

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