33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
These words of Jesus are amongst the most difficult to fully understand. Our Lord begins by using images from the Old Testament. The end of all things will be a time of great signs, a time of distress, the sun will darken, the stars come crashing down. But at the same time there is hope. The Son of Man, that is Jesus, will come in glory - his angels will gather the elect, that is those followers of Jesus who have been faithful and lived good lives.
We can all read the signs He says. Like spring, like leaves coming out on a fig tree. You know summer is near. And that’s interesting because first Jesus speaks of great alarming, worrying signs showing the end is near, but then He uses the joyful encouraging image of spring showing summer is near.
And then Our Lord says that this will all happen within a generation, within 50 years or so. But finally He says no one knows when the end will come only God the Father. Here Jesus is surely speaking according to His human nature. As God of course He knows everything but it is not part of human nature to know the exact time so according to His human nature even Jesus does not know.
So where does this leave us? The heart I think is Jesus words ‘ heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not’. By heaven and earth Jesus means the whole of creation, the world, the sky, we would say the universe. We know it will pass away, just as we know we will all one day come to the end of our lives. What remains is God. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Word of God and it is by listening to Him, by living according to His word, by loving Him and allowing Him to become part of us, especially through the sacraments, that we can gaze with a certain calmness at disasters that occur. We can avoid getting too excited by the many events that happen all around us, avoid getting carried away by good things, not be driven to despair by the fact that we are all going to die one day, that nothing of the world lasts for ever, that we can’t know the future. We can be affected by them, we can be disturbed and distressed disturbing but always there is the security of knowing that the one who loves us, the one we love, will never end, - anything else, no matter how scary and awful or nice and enjoyable will come to an end. But Jesus who is God will not and he will never allow those he loves and who return his love to come to an end. To understand this, to be like this, to feel this way is the normal condition for any Christian and in this sense Jesus says all this will come to pass before this and every generation comes to an end.
In summary, things good and bad will happen - don’t worry, don’t get too excited by anything. Each of us may suffer painful times - even great tragedies. But in the end all passes, in the end only God’s love remains.