AFTER HIS TERRIBLE REPRIMAND to the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus and His disciples went out of the Temple, crossed the Brook Cedron, and began the ascent of Mount Olivet. As they left the Temple the disciples took note, seemingly for the first time, of the grandeur of the building. They were impressed, perhaps, not so much by the beauty of the Temple as by its massiveness. Its vast corridors seemed endless; and its heavy walls, incorporating blocks of stone over twenty feet long, appeared as unshakeable as the firmament. One of the disciples turned enthusiastically to Jesus and said:
“Master, look, what wonderful stones and buildings.”
But the mind of Jesus was on other things. Without intending to dampen their enthusiasm, He replied with a somewhat sobering comment:
“Dost thou see all these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
The disciples were disturbed by these words of Jesus. Later, as they sat on the slope of the hill, opposite the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew questioned Him, asking when this destruction would take place, and also by what signs they could anticipate the second coming of Christ and the end of the world.
In reply, Jesus addressed to the disciples a long prophetic discourse, treating both of the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem and of the consummation of the world at the end of time. He foretold the signs and omens which would accompany these catastrophes, but gave no indication of the time which would separate them. He sketched the two events on a single canvas, picturing the one in the background with such foreshortening of perspective that no one could certainly say what distance separated the events. Speaking in the style of the prophets and using often their very words as recorded in the Scriptures, He said:
“Take care that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am he’; and they will lead many astray. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; for they must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These things are the beginning of sorrows.”
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, for a witness to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. And when they lead you away to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to speak; but speak whatever is given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and put them to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake; but he who has persevered to the end will be saved.”
“And when you see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not-let him who reads understand-then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not go down and enter to take anything from his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe to those who are with child, or have infants at the breast in those days! But pray that these things may not happen in winter. For in those days will be tribulations, such as have not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, nor will be. And unless the Lord had shortened the days, no living creature would be saved. But for the sake of the elect whom He has chosen, He has shortened the days.”
“And then, if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ; behold, there He is,’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Be on your guard, therefore; behold, I have told you all things beforehand.”
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars of heaven will be falling, and the powers that are in heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming upon clouds with great power and majesty. And then He will send forth His angels, and will gather His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost parts of the earth to the uttermost parts of heaven.”
“Now from the fig tree learn this parable. When its branch is now tender, and the leaves break forth, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things coming to pass, know that it is near, even at the door. Amen I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things have been accomplished. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
“But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is: just as a man, when he leaves home to journey abroad, puts his servants in charge, to each his work, and gives orders to the porter to keep watch. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or early in the morning; lest coming suddenly he’ find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all, ‘Watch.’ “
Meditation: “Watch and pray.” How wise we will be if we heed this admonition of Our Lord and persevere in its practice. Though death may surprise us, it will not find us unprepared. As we live, so shall we die. If we live always prepared to die, death, even though it be sudden, will not be, for us, a tragedy. However, this is not easy. It takes effort, persevering effort. But is not a happy death worth any price?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 215-218. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.