Reflection on the Gospel of the Thirty-Third Sunday
Apocalyptic literature uses unsettling language and imagery as a means to assure the faithful that they should keep their trust in God even when facing the most challenging of circumstances. Sure enough, while describing the terrible events, Jesus tells his listeners not to be afraid (Luke 21:9). That assurance of God’s faithfulness to us in the face of difficult times is the real concern of this passage is confirmed by Luke 21:12-19. Jesus details the persecution that his followers can expect to face: arrests; persecution; trials before government authorities; betrayal by family and friends; hatred on account of Jesus’ name; and even execution.
A close reading of Luke 21:5-19 shows that using this passage as a springboard for proclaiming God’s judgment on society would miss the point. Rather, the passage warns us about becoming too fixated on temporary human institutions, perhaps with the implication that we should attend to the need in our communities instead and it exhorts us to be firm in our trust in God when calamity and persecution strike (21:7-19). Despite its language and imagery of destruction, Luke 21:5-19 is ultimately a passage grounded in hope — in the hope that God remains present in the world and in one’s life even when things have gotten so bad that it feels like the world is closing in on us.