25 November 2008 Tuesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 21, 5-19 Not an Everlasting Beauty
The Gospel today tells us that Jesus was teaching in the temple, His rightful place. In this episode, Jesus made his final appearance before ‘predicting’ the destruction of the Temple. He brings his disciples out of the Temple so that they would have a good view of its beauty. For the Jews, the Temple was a symbol of security and divine protection. Some believe that its foundations were sturdy enough. But the first Temple of Solomon built in 960 BC was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. During the time of Ezra, the second Temple was completed in 516 BC. It was renovated by Herod the Great in 20 BC. Jesus taught in this renovated 2nd Temple, only to be destroyed later by the Romans in 70 AD. Many scholars agree that the Gospel of Luke was written after the destruction of the Temple. The support is that Luke used Mark’s Gospel. And Mark’s Gospel was written around the Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. And so, Luke wrote this passage with the knowledge of this event after the fact.
The passage is eschatological; it is about the end of days. It is said that the end will be marked by disasters like earthquakes and wars. In the midst of fears and catastrophes, people become vulnerable to many false prophets. Think for example, the Y2K bug as a prediction of the end at the turn of the millennium. All computers will return to year 0. But nothing happened. When we are afraid, we tend to believe anything — sadly, even the most outrageous and plain stupid. But the fact remains: disasters happen regularly in our lives. There is no prediction about what day or time the end will be. The Book of Revelation was written for the Christians persecuted by Rome, and not a symbolic code that tells us of specific people and events.
There are things that do not last. We could be attached to things and events of interest. We could be obsessed with the people we are attracted with. We are seduced by physical beauty as the Jews thought that the beauty of the Temple will last forever. There is always an end; like the Fall of Jerusalem. And the end is inevitable. If we are conscious about the end, then we would know what are the things we could not bring to the grave. Conversely, we would know who are the people we want to love without end.
If we keep the fact that our physical lives would end, then there are things we would do before it comes. First, we would take good care of our bodies. Every time we eat unhealthily, we contribute to our death and how we are to die. Second, we would do what is worthwhile. With the time that remains, we would rather enjoy the things we like best, spend the time with people who matter and contribute our talents or resources for the good of others. Tradition has it that we should build good memories for people to remember us by. Sometimes it requires a cataclysm to shake our consciousness that some things do not last; on the other hand, some things remain forever.
If we forget that we are finite, you can almost be predict disaster.