Lectio Divina: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
The discourse of Jesus on the end of time
1. Opening prayer
Lord, You who have made sky and earth and sea, and everything in them; it is You who said through the Holy Spirit and speaking through our ancestor David, Your servant:
Why this uproar among the nations,
this impotent muttering of the peoples?
Kings of earth take up position,
princes plot together
against the Lord and His Anointed”.
... Stretch out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of Your holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:24-25,30)”. Fill us with Your Spirit as You gave it to the Apostles after this prayer, in the time of trial, so that we can also proclaim the Word openly and give witness as prophets of hope.
a) The context :
The passage concerns the beginning of Jesus’ discourse on the end of the world. The passage Luke 21:5-36 is a whole literary unit. Jesus is in Jerusalem, at the entrance to the temple, the Passion is near. The Synoptic Gospels (also see Mt 24; Mk 13) have the so called “eschatological” discourse precede the account of the Passion, Death and Resurrection. These are events to be read in the light of the Passover. The language is the “apocalyptic” one. Attention is not placed on each word, but on the announcement of the total overturn. The community of Luke already knew about the events concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. The Evangelist universalizes the message and makes evident the intermediate time of the Church waiting for the coming of the Lord in glory. Luke refers to the end of time also in other parts (12:35-48;17: 20;18:18).
b) A possible division of the text:
Luke 21:5-7: introduction.
Luke 21:8-9: initial warning.
Luke 21:10-11: the signs.
Luke 21:12-17: the disciples put to the test.
Luke 21:18-19: protection and trust.
c) The text:
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All that you see here-- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." Then they asked him, "Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?" He answered, "See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. "Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives."
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. A few questions
- Which sentiments prevail in me: anguish, fear, trust, hope, doubt...?
- Where is the Good News in this discourse?
- Do we love what we expect and do we conform ourselves to its demands?
- How do I react to trials in my life of faith?
- Can I make a connection with the present historical events?
- What place does Jesus have in history today?
a) A key for reading:
Let us not allow ourselves to be attracted by the exterior upheavals, typical of the apocalyptic language, but by the interior ones, which are necessary, which pre-announce and prepare the encounter with the Lord. Even being aware that today also, in different parts of the world, “apocalyptic” situations are being lived, it is possible to make a personalized reading, not an evasive one, which shifts the attention to personal responsibility. Luke, regarding the other Evangelists, underlines that the end has not come, that it is necessary to live the waiting with commitment. Let us open our eyes to the tragedies of our time, not to be prophets of misfortune, but courageous prophets of a new order based on justice and peace.
 “When some were talking about the temple remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings”, He said: Jesus was probably at the entrance to the temple, considering the reference to the votive offerings. Luke does not specify who the listeners are. It is directed to all. He universalizes the eschatological discourse. This discourse can refer to the end of time, but also to our personal end, the proper time of life. In common there is the definitive encounter with the Risen Lord.
 “All these things you are staring at now, the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be destroyed”. Jesus introduces a language of misfortune (17:22; 19:43) and repeats the admonitions of the prophets concerning the temple (Micah 3:12; Jer 7:1-15; 26:1-19). It is also a consideration on the fragility of every human achievement, no matter how marvelous. The community of Luke already knew about the destruction of Jerusalem (year 70). Let us consider our attitude towards the things that end with time.
 They asked Him: “Master, when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that it is about to take place?” The listeners are interested in the external upheavals which characterize this event. Jesus does not respond to this specific question. The “when” is not placed by Luke in relation to the destruction of Jerusalem. He underlines that the end “will not be immediately” (v. 9) and “that before all this...” (v. 12) others things will happen. He questions us on the relation between the historical events and the fulfillment of the history of salvation: the time of man and the time of God.
 He answered, “Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using My name and saying: ‘I am the one’ and ‘the time is near at hand’. Refuse to join them”. In regard to the other Evangelists, Luke adds the reference to time. The community of the first Christians is overcoming the phase of an immediate coming of the Lord and prepares itself for the intermediate time of the Church. Jesus recommends that they not allow themselves to be deceived, or better, to be seduced by impostors. There are two types of false prophets: those who pretend to come in the name of Jesus saying “I am the one” and those who affirm that the time is near at hand, that the day is already known (10:11; 19:11).
 “When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be terrified, for this is something that must happen first, but the end will not come at once”. Even the war events, and today we would say, the terrorist acts, are not the beginning of the end. All this happens but it is not a sign of the end. Luke wants to warn them about the illusion of the imminent end of time with the consequent disillusionment and abandonment of faith.
 “Then He said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
 There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places; there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven‘”. The words “and then He said” is a repetition of the discourse after the initial warnings. This is fully apocalyptic language, which means revelation (Isa 19:2; 2Cor 15:6) and at the same time concealment. Traditional images are used to describe the rapid changes of history (Isa 24:19-20; Zech 14:4-5; Ezek 6:11-12, etc.). The imaginary catastrophe is like a curtain which hides the beauty of the scene which is behind: the coming of the Lord in glory (v. 27).
 “But before all this happens, you will be seized and persecuted; you will be handed over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and brought before kings and governors for the sake of My name.”
 “and that will be your opportunity to bear witness”. The Christian is called to conform himself to Christ. They have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. Luke recalls the scene of Paul before King Agrippa and Governor Festo (Acts 25:23-26, 32). Behold the time of trial. Not necessarily under the form of persecution. Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus suffered the absence of God for eighteen months, when she discovered her illness. A time of purification which prepares for the encounter. It is the normal condition of the Christian, that of living in a healthy tension which is not frustration. Christians are called to give witness to the hope which animates them.
 “Make up your minds not to prepare your defense;
 because I Myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict”. The time has come to place our trust completely in God, God alone suffices. It is that same wisdom with which Stephen confused his enemies (Acts 6:10). The capacity to resist to persecution is guaranteed for the believer.
 “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death”.
 “You will be hated universally on account of my name. The radical following of Christ implies also the overcoming of blood relations, those which we affectionately believe to be more secure. There is the risk of remaining alone, like Jesus in His Passion.
 “But not a hair of your head will be lost”. Luke repeats the preceding verse (12:7) to remind us of the divine protection which is assured at the moment of trial. The believer is also guaranteed the care of his physical integrity.
 “Your perseverance will win you your lives.” Perseverance (cf. Acts 11:23; 13: 43; 14:22) is indispensable in order to bear fruit (8:15), in the daily trials and in persecutions. It means the same as the “remain in Christ” of John. The final victory is certain: the Kingdom of God will be established by the Son of Man. Therefore, it is necessary to be persevering, vigilant and in prayer (v. 36 and 12:35-38). The life-style of the Christian has to be a sign of the future which will come.
6. Oratio: Psalm 98
Sing a new song to the Lord
Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,
burst into shouts of joy!
Play to Yahweh on the harp,
to the sound of instruments;
to the sound of trumpet and horn,
acclaim the presence of the King.
Let the sea thunder, and all that it holds,
the world and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
and the mountains shout for joy together,
at Yahweh's approach,
for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with saving justice
and the nations with fairness.
Good God, whose Kingdom is all love and peace, You Yourself create in our soul that silence that You need to communicate Yourself to it.
Peaceful acting, desiring without passion, zeal without agitation: all that can only come from You, Eternal Wisdom, Infinite activity, unalterable repose, principle and model of true peace.
You have promised us by Your prophets this peace. You have given it by Jesus Christ. You have given us the guarantee with the effusion of Your Spirit.
Do not permit that the envy of the enemy, the anxiety of passion, the scruples of conscience make us lose this heavenly gift, which is the pledge of Your love, the object of Your promises, the reward of the blood of Your Son. Amen. (Teresa of Avila, 38:9-10).