Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year
Popular Jewish thought in the first century linked the destruction of Jerusalem with the end of the world. When Luke wrote his gospel Jerusalem, with its magnificent Temple built on the grand scale by Herod the Great, had already been destroyed, so it would have been natural for Jesus’ followers to think that the end of the world was at hand.
Luke uses the apocalyptic language common at the time about the signs to be expected at the coming of the messianic age, to boost their morale. The paradoxical point about apocalyptic language is that it is much more about the present than the future. In spite of the fact that the world seemed to be collapsing around their heads and they themselves were suffering persecution on all sides, Jesus’ followers are not to feel adrift in a sea of chaos. They have Jesus always at their side, especially when they are called to speak up for their belief in him. They are assured that not a hair of their heads will be lost, a phrase that recalls Jesus’ earlier assertion “even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Lk 12:7). Their “endurance” will help them through the difficult times.
The gospel today asks of us to have an enduring faith, one that never loses hope, a faith that is strong enough to contend with the darkness and despair, the “wars and rumours of wars” that is always around, knowing that ultimately, as the first reading puts it: “the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.”
Prophets have always been present in the Dominican Order down the centuries. In more recent times we have had the likes of Albert Nolan from South Africa whose most recent book, Hope in an Age of Despair could be called a summary of his prophetic stance down the years. He has constantly reminded us that the spirituality which Jesus lived and taught calls us all to side with the causes of justice in our despairing world, when “we begin to see dimly in the dark that Jesus is still at work in our world… The most valuable contribution that a Christian can make in our age of despair is to continue, because of our faith, to act hopefully and in that way to be an encouragement to those who have lost all hope. (p. 12).