In the Gospel today we meet Jesus in conversation with some Jews who were admiring the Temple. How weird Jesus must have sound to them when instead of joining them in praising the Temple he was taking about its destruction. Jesus didn’t want the Temple destroyed but he foresaw that it was coming. He draw his knowledge not from the walls falling apart, because the Temple was still solid and magnificent, but foresaw the destruction as he looked into the hearts of his contemporaries. When Luke was writing the Gospel the Temple had been already destroyed. It wasn’t punishment from God but it was the consequence of the sins of the people who thought that the beautiful Temple would cover the ugliness of their lives. The ruins of the temple were to be a call for repentance and faith. When a few months ago I stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where the magnificent Temple once stood I couldn’t stop thinking that those huge stone blocks pushed off the hill are crying, not so much for rebuilding but for my, our repentance and faith in God.
Sisters and Brothers in the Catholic Faith!
The readings we usually hear in November take us to the Last Things as we call them. There is lots of talking in those readings about destruction, death, terror etc. How are we going to approach it? We should do that like the first believers approached the destruction, terror and death of those first years of Christianity when they saw the old world falling apart and their only hope for the new world was and the Word of Christ. Did they panic? They didn’t. Because they were reading the events in the light of their faith and trust in the Lord.
Last year a magnitude 6.0 quake struck in the middle of the night, about 35 kilometers north of the city of Bologna in Italy. People were killed and massive damage was done to the area. In response to the event Archbishop of Bologna, Card. Caffarra wrote a letter. Very calmly but firmly he said that the tragedy was a call for repentance addressed to all people. He explained it in three points. Firstly it shows the fragility of human existence that is forgotten by many people who think that they are lords of their life. Secondly the Cardinal invites people distinguish between temporary, material goods and the goods that last, like love, solidary, compassion, forgiveness. Thirdly he reminds us that we are called to return to God and no to call god the work of our hands.
The Cardinal not simply saw the destruction but he was able to read the message hidden in it. It was what the first Christians did when Luke was writing his Gospel.
A few days ago we were faced with another tragedy that happened to the Philippines, thousands of dead and massive destruction. Again people were asking: “Were where God when it happened? Why did he allowed that to happen?” I am not going to answer these question but I would like to leave you with another question which is in my head and heart at the moment: “Will we learn from the tragedy some important lesson about the need to return to God, to repent, to trust God, to remember how fragile we are, to stress the lasting value of love, forgiveness, solidary and compassion?” We owe this to those whose lives were cut short, their passing is a call for repentance and faith.