Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19
You notice there are two important contrasting images in the Gospel today, one at the beginning - the Temple, and the other, at the end - the hair on your head.
This is an interesting contrast. One will be completely destroyed, the other, not a single one will be lost.
Ultimately God doesn’t care too much for buildings and ‘things’; God is more into people, his children.
I remember in another parish one of the parishioners suggested we saw a bit off each of the pews in the small church to make room for side aisles. This would have made the flow of traffic at Communion time much more simple. The ruckus that followed took me completely by surprise. ‘It’s always been this way, so don’t touch it!’
Jesus could not have said that the time would come ‘when not a single stone will be left on another’ because it was a wooden church, but I am sure he would have found the words to warn against too much attachment to the status quo.
God is not too much concerned with the preservation and restoration of Church buildings; he is more concerned with us – the living Church, built of living stones.
Another opposition in the Gospel is - you and them. This is found in the first reading too. And notice! - there is no one in between. There are only those who are for Christ (as the first reading says: those who fear my Name), - and on the other hand are found - the arrogant, the evildoers.
When Jesus says you he is usually speaking of and to his disciples. We often forget that, especially at funerals. People always choose the readings where Jesus makes all those marvellous promises of eternal happiness but forget the important words with which our Gospel readings usually start: Jesus said to his disciples. The promises of Jesus are made always to you, his disciples; not to them, the arrogant and the evildoers.
So the disciples of Jesus, who fear his Name, do all they can to live as followers of the Lord. The others? Well, they oppose the disciples. In the Gospel they are referred to as your opponents, and then, frighteningly, as parents, brothers, relations, friends!
Jesus came to divide those who are for him from those who are against him. That division, most unfortunately, runs through families and friends and even, the Church. And why do they oppose the disciples? Simply on account of his name!
They will persecute the disciples and bring them before governors, and synagogues ‘on account of my Name’ and also ‘you will be hated by all men on account of my name.’
Notice, too, that they will come 'using my name'. How clever! Ever heresy claims to be the truth from God, and every heretic claims to be speaking ‘in his name’.
What will they do to you?
Firstly, they will invite you to join them in their heresy.
‘Do not join them’ says Jesus, and then, later on ‘Take care not to be deceived.’
You know that this command of Jesus is spoken to us too: Take care not to be deceived.
How do we do that today? How do we take care not to be deceived?
Hans Urs von Balthazar once said the truth is like a symphony and when you have listened to it all the way through, and learned it, and enjoyed it, and come to love it, then, when someone strikes a false note you recognise it immediately. ‘Hey, that doesn’t sound right! One of the musicians has made an error, played a false note.’
The easiest to deceive are the ignorant. Each one of us has to get to know the music of our faith and its authentic expression. Then we will be in no danger of ever being deceived.
Secondly, if you don’t join them they will hate you. They will seize you, persecute you, hand you over, imprison you, betray you, and even kill some of you.
But don’t worry! When they do all this they will be doing nothing more than giving you a marvellous opportunity to do what you are supposed to do as a disciple – to witness to his name.
And remember: Not a hair of your head will be lost.
What does Jesus say will happen to them? – The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk.
And what does Jesus say will happen to you? – But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.