The Buds of Spring

Luke 21: 29-33
Rv 20:1-4, 11, 21: 2/ Ps 84: 3-6, 8

Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.
(Luke 21: 29-30)

The End will come, there’s no denying,
Or the destruction death will bring;
After the winter of life’s passing,
Comes the eternal buds of spring.

Then Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:29-33)

Reflection

Chapter 21 of Luke’s Gospel contains some of the most difficult lessons or prophecies that our Lord Jesus was imparting to the Jews of His generation, and for the future generations of Christians to interpret and understand. To be sure, the earlier parts of the chapter, which predicted the destruction of the temple (verses 5 – 6), the coming persecution of the early Church (verses 12 -19), and the ultimate fall of Jerusalem to the gentiles (verses 20–24), were all fulfilled when the Romans, during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, under the command of his son, Titus, invaded and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. These events are similarly depicted in the other synoptic gospels.

What seems to throw us off the track are the words of our Lord in the same chapter: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright… the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk.21:25-27). This prophecy of eschatological times seems to be more for our benefit than for Jews at that time.

And then, as if to dispel the doubts and confusion of His apostles and our generation, Jesus cited the lesson of the fig tree. Whatever may happen at any time in our lives, our Lord guarantees in this lesson that we will know beforehand, as certain as we know the changing of the seasons by the signs that nature shows us. He further assures us that in the midst of change and transformation through the passage of time, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Lk. 21:33) As His followers, as long as we remain steadfast in our faith, and hold firm to the Gospel in our lives, we need not fear our destruction, for after the winter of death will surely come bursting forth the eternal buds of spring.

Through the passing of the seasons, change comes inevitably. Only Your Word can make us steadfast, Lord, and be prepared for the coming of Your kingdom. Amen.

The Tribulation Prophecies

Luke 21: 20-28
Rv 18:1-2,21-23 / Ps 100

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
(Luke 21:25)

The endtimes will come with certainty,
Fearful days of great calamity.
The question is, how prepared are we
To face God without anxiety?

Jesus said, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. Those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are the days of punishment, when all that is written are fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and nursing mothers in those days! For a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful vengeance upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled… The Coming of the Son of Man There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads, because your redemption is at hand.’ (Lk. 21:20-28)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel reading of Luke, our Lord was making two separate prophecies: the first, in verses 20 to 24, is a repetition of his lament over Jerusalem as he was entering the city (in Luke 19:41-44). History shows this prophecy would be fulfilled in A.D. 66–73, about forty years after the death of Jesus, when the Roman armies under Titus, the son of Vespasian conquered Palestine and destroyed Jerusalem, slaughtering most of the Jews and bringing the captives as slaves back to Rome.

The second prophecy is obviously no longer about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, but about “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” This prophecy is for the benefit of Christians of future generations – warning us to prepare for our Lord’s Second Coming to herald the Final Judgment. Again, this is a repetition of His earlier prediction of the End Times (in Lk.21:7-11). “Signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves” evidently refer to nature’s cataclysmic phenomena as manifestations of the prophecy’s fulfillment. The past few years of this millennium have seen the occurrences of floods, earthquakes, typhoons (even three visiting our country simultaneously), fires, droughts and famines in rapid succession all over the world. This last apocalypse is a consequence not only of drought, but by wars in Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria. And of course we are all aware of the current global warming phenomenon.

How did the early Christian community escape from the slaughter in Jerusalem? According to church history, the early Christians fled Jerusalem before the war and escaped to Pella, across the Jordan River. They surely must have remembered Jesus’ prophecy, and acted accordingly. It would do well for us to follow their example, and ‘escape’ from our sins while there is still time. People in the state of sin should be even more fearful of the future than those who have experienced the calamities of nature. Jesus said, “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world” (Lk.21:26). But those who have made the Holy Scriptures their refuge and “daily Bread” have no cause to “fear the terrors of night” (Psalm 91:5), or any danger that may befall them or their loved ones. Instead of fear, when the endtimes come, we shall be full of anticipation for the “coming of the Lord in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk. 21:27).

Save us, Father God, from the impending destruction; protect us from the evil that will befall the world on the day of tribulation. This we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Giving Witness Amidst Persecution

Luke 21: 12-19
Rv 15: 1-4/ Ps 98: 1. 2-3ab. 7-8. 9

This will result in your giving testimony.
(Luke 21:13)

Pray for the grace of fortitude
When we are called to testify,
With a heart full of gratitude,
Our Lord Jesus we glorify.

“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself will give you a wisdom in speaking that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or refute. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.” (Luke 21:12-19)

Reflection

God allows that we go through trials and persecutions because He knows that these will fortify us in giving witness to our faith. The word “witness” is translated from the Greek word marturion, from which we get our English word “martyr”. The term means “he who serves as testimony or proof.” Thus, the early Christians were called martyrs not because of their persecution, but because of the testimony of their faith, for which they were willing to give up their lives. God allowed their trials to make them worthy of Himself, “As gold in the furnace, He proved them, and as sacrificial offerings He took them to Himself.” (Wisdom 3:6) It was Tertullian who said it so well: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”

We are fortunate that we are not living in the age of Christian persecutions; nor in the present time, in places where we have to prove our faith as other Christians do, such as in Saudi Arabia or China, where the practice of one’s religion is strictly prohibited or regulated. But wherever we are, we are still called to give witness to our Lord Jesus, especially during times of personal turmoil, grief, or financial crisis. It is in times of extreme distress that true faith emerges. As Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel, “By standing firm (by perseverance) you will gain life.” (21:19)

As we have persevered, we are also called to give witness, or to share our life testimony about God’s miracle in our lives, especially those who are in the renewal. Many regard this as the modern version of the Christian persecution, because the greatest fear of most people is to stand at the podium in front of an audience. It will do them good to heed the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or refute.” (Lk.21:15) Yes, as we have heard in many a sharing, it is the Holy Spirit that speaks through us. We have nothing to fear.

Father God, in times when we are put to the test on account of Your Name, grant us the grace of fortitude, to be bold in our ministry. Renew our spirit that we might bring glory and honor to You. We pray for all those Christians who are suffering persecution and death for the sake of the Gospel. Empower them with Your Holy Spirit to persevere in their faith. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

The Coming Apocalypse

Luke 21: 5-11
Rev 14:14-19 / Psa 96

All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.
(Luke 21:6)

No stone upon a stone or throne
Can last on earth in God’s design,
Have faith, the Word of God alone
Will stand until the end of time.

Some of His disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and votive offerings, when Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” They asked Him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Then He said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:5-11)

Reflection

Nothing lasts long on this earth. Not the most powerful kingdom, not the strongest temple, not the greatest religion. Only the Word of God lasts until the end of time. The words that our Lord spoke were strange to the ears of His generation – but only because they were meant for all future generations of mankind to profit by. The irony is, they had the Savior in their midst, but they could not comprehend His words of salvation, while we– thousands of years later—can clearly see that Jesus Christ is our eternal Foundation. The Jews in His time could not accept His teaching – they had their temple, massive and magnificent, upon which they could put their faith. But just as Jesus had predicted, their great temple was totally destroyed, and the Jewish nation dispersed when “nations (rose) against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Lk.21:10)

Both today’s Gospel of Luke and the first Reading in the book of Revelation (14:14-19) speak about the coming apocalypse. We believe in these Holy Words of Scriptures because they are the Word of God Himself. History bears out the fact that all of the predictions of Jesus happened to the Jewish nation and their great temple (which they believed was imperishable). But our lord was not merely talking about the destruction of the Jewish nation. He was also warning us about His second coming. Already the signs of the coming “end times” have started. Powerful earthquakes, wars, famines, and plagues have happened thruout the world. And, as He predicted, “…many will come in My name, saying ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’” And indeed, a great number have been deceived. (Lk.21:8) It puzzles me no end to watch on tv how thousands in our community are mesmerized by a known womanizer, who flaunts his wealth coming from their tithes as casually as he quotes verses from the Bible.

While many are led astray by these false prophets, others in the true Church still do not take these dire warnings seriously, and continue in their sinful ways. Sadly, only a few are blessed to take the Word of God to heart, and strive to sanctify their days.

We thank You, Father for Your Word that has made us steadfast in following Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant us the grace to persevere amidst the chaos and deceptions of the world. Amen.

The Gift of Giving

Luke 21: 1-4
Rev 14: 1-3. 4b-5/ Ps 24: 1-6

…He saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the temple treasury. He noticed a poor widow go up to the treasury to put in two small coins.
(Luke 21: 1)

To those who practice charity,
God’s blessings flow abundantly;
With grateful hearts let’s strive to be
God’s gifts of generosity.

When Jesus looked up, he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the temple treasury. He noticed a poor widow put in two small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” He said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

Reflection

The widow’s contribution demonstrates the lesson that our Lord is imparting, that it is not so much what we give that counts, but what we are willing to give up. Jesus said, “This poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others (the wealthy) have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” (Lk.21:3-4)

It is always the spirit behind our giving that gives our gift its worth. There are two reasons we can think of why the widow decided to part with her last two coins. The first is out of gratitude. In spite of her poverty, she wanted to express her gratitude to God for some blessing(s) that she might have received. The other reason is her strong faith. She firmly believed that by giving everything to God, He would surely reciprocate her sacrifice by giving back to her ten times or even more than what she had surrendered. She had complete faith in God’s providence and generosity.

Today’s Gospel of Luke teaches us several things about the gift of giving. The first is, it doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, we must never neglect our obligation to support our church, as the widow did for her temple. The amount is not as important as the sincerity of our intention.

The second lesson we learn today is, we must give with total trust in the Lord’s Providence, believing that the cornucopia of God’s bounty will always be available to us. If we really have genuine faith in God, then we should harbor no doubt that He will open the floodgates of heaven to fill all our needs.

The third thing to remember is this – “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also get a generous harvest. God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” (2 Cor.9:6,8) By being generous to others, we become God’s answer to their prayers.

Finally, we have learned that those who have less in life seems to have more in wisdom. This is God’s justice. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)

Lord, may the words of St. Paul apply in all our dealings: “The One who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Cor. 9:10) Amen.

Living in the Hope of Life Eternal

Luke 20:27-40
Rev 11:4-12 / Psa 144

God is the God of the living and not of the dead, and for Him all are alive.
(Luke 20:38)

As certain as day follows night,
And the rainbow after the rain,
We have hope in eternal life
Past this temporal span of pain.

Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way all the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Luke 20:27-40)

Reflection

The Sadducees were a certain sect of Jews who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The question they posed to Jesus about a widow dying childless after marrying seven brothers in succession was meant to parody the belief of their counterparts, the Pharisees, on the life hereafter. Instead, their own belief was exposed to ridicule by the simple explanation of the Lord, the Author of Life. He explained that Moses called the Father the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and since He is the God of the living, then those three patriarchs must still be alive in God’s kingdom. Chastised, the Sadducees had to concede, with the scribes saying, “Teacher, You have answered well.”

Only people in the state of despair hold no hope that there is eternal life. Thank God for the gift of Faith, because without it there certainly can never be hope. Only the children of God, the followers of Jesus Christ, have the hope to be raised to eternal life when their time on earth has come to an end. This hope in a final glory with the Father in heaven is the only reason why we strive to be good and remain unaffected by the ways of this world. This should also make us feel joyful and grateful, notwithstanding the problems and conflicts that we face daily. Hope is an eternal flame burning in my heart, keeping me warm amidst the cold realities of sin, suffering and cynicism in this world. Hope is the light that wards off the darkness of depravity, spiritual destitution and despair.

Why should we be so concerned about the cares and shallow pleasures of this world that only lead to frustration and emptiness — when there is so much hope in the beauty of God’s creation — in the laughing eyes of a child, in the certain rainbow that comes after the rain? Hope and its fruits of joy and peace do not come out of this world of their own accord. Like faith, it is a gift freely rewarded by God to those who are deserving. It cannot be given to one whose heart is bothered by sin, because one is a kin of love, and the other of hate. A sinner must first be freed from his bondage through the sacrament of Penance – asking the Lord for the forgiveness of his sins, and in turn forgiving his”enemies” before he can expect to receive the gift of hope. It also might take a little time to acquire. One may have to go through patience and perseverance – but it’s certainly worth the wait — what joy it is to possess this hope in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Father in heaven, thank You for giving us Jesus, Your beloved Son, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Because of Him, everything has life. His resurrection from the dead has given us the hope of eternal life. We thank You also for the gift of Faith, because although You remain a divine mystery to us, Your gift of Faith is more important than knowledge, and though we do not see clearly now, we believe that one day Your great mystery will be revealed to us. This is our fervent hope. AMEN.