In this reading for the 12th/13th November, Jesus’ words about the future destruction of the Temple lead into broader teachings about trust in God in the midst of disasters and persecutions. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
5 When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, 6 ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ 7 And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’
8 ‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said, ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. 9 And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ 10 Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
12 ‘But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name 13 – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, 15 because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. 17 You will be hated by all men on account of my name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 Your endurance will win you your lives.’
Other readings: Malachi 3:19-20 Psalm 97 (98) 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Each of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) contains a report of the words of Jesus about the future and the end of the world. These words are pronounced by Jesus in Jerusalem shortly before his passion and death. The location is in the vicinity of the temple, and Jesus announces that one day it will be destroyed.
This topic leads into broader teachings about trust in God in the midst of disasters and persecutions. Christians are not to waste time calculating when the end will come. They are not to allow themselves to be misled by false prophets and false messiahs. Above all, they are to trust in the provident care of God, who will give them eloquence and wisdom to defend themselves and preach the truth. ‘Your endurance will win you your lives.’
Am I fearful about the future or do I trust in the providence of God?
Do I waste my energy calculating how to reach salvation?
We pray for all victims of natural disasters and religious persecution.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy