Joseph Stalin was the most ruthless dictator of the former Soviet Union. In 1928, he launched a series of five-year plans for the rapid industrialization and enforced collectivization of agriculture. As a result, more than ten million farmers were killed. He ruthlessly murdered hundreds and hundreds of the intellectuals who opposed him. But the surprising thing is that Stalin as a teenager had joined the seminary to become a priest. He was expelled from it because of his revolutionary ideas. A noble desire went badly wrong. A man who desired to save souls became a monster who brutally murdered people in millions.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus foretells the utter ruin and destruction of Jerusalem. Upon the Lord’s visitation, the peoples of Jerusalem and the Temple authorities rejected Him, and, consequently, destruction visited them.
The Gospel passage underlines the truth that the date of the end of the world is uncertain. Signs will precede the end, and the Christians will be called upon to testify before kings and governors. The Good News is that those who persevere in faithfulness to the Lord will save their souls and enter God’s eternal kingdom.
Christ’s Second Coming is something to celebrate because he is going to present all creation to his Heavenly Father. That is why we say at Mass, “We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again.” Jesus’ promise of the protective power of a providing God was meant to encourage His disciples to continue in their Faith and its practice. Jesus later adds the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world to prepare His disciples and to remind them to rely upon him for Salvation, not their own power.
To the proud people of Jerusalem, Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple was a great shock, almost blasphemy in fact, because those words sounded like an insult to God. Yet within forty years, the prediction of Jesus was largely fulfilled. The Temple, originally built by Solomon was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans.
After the Second World War Albert Einstein said “As a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, but the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood directly across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, now I praise completely.” The Church had the moral courage to resist a dictator, and it saved the lives of so many Jews because it believed in the assurance given by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
We must be prepared daily for our death and private judgment. We make this preparation by trying to do God’s will every day, leading holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion, and unconditional forgiveness. In order to do this, we must recharge our spiritual batteries every day by personal prayer, that is, by talking to God, and by listening to Him through reading the Bible. Daily examination of our conscience at bedtime and asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sins of the day will also prepare us to face God any time to give an account of our lives.
We need to attain permanence in a passing world by leading exemplary lives. We must remember that our homes, our Churches and even our own lives are temporary. Our greatness is judged by God, not on our worldly achievements, but on our fidelity to our Faith and our practice of that Faith in loving service of others. How our faithfulness is expressed each day is the most important thing.
When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they immediately attempted to suppress the Catholic Church. Over the course of the next several years, they killed a third of the Polish clergy and banned Faith education. One Polish layman, Jan Tyranowski, decided to do something. He began a secret group, called the Living Rosary, to instruct people in their faith. He faced numerous obstacles but he continued, and, over the course of time, 10 of the young men who attended these groups became priests. One of those priests is known to history as Saint John Paul II. Imagine if Jan Tyranowski had given up. Imagine how different the world might be today without Saint John Paul II. In the same way, our holiness isn’t a matter of indifference. A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying. And that trying can change the world.
Let us all pray for the grace to persevere in our Faith in spite of worldly temptations, attacks on our religion and moral values by the atheistic or agnostic media, threats of social isolation, and direct or indirect persecution because of our religious beliefs.