Pope Francis calls today’s Gospel a reading that “astounds” people of Jesus’ time as well as those of today. Indeed, Luke 21:6 would give anything standing in the midst of a glorious temple a jolt:
“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.”
However, the Holy Father, during his homily November 17, 2019, for World Day of the Poor in the Vatican Basilica, explained the “rest of the story”. While it seems that Jesus says everything will end, that isn’t what he really said.
“He tells us that almost everything will pass away,” according to Pope Francis. “Almost everything, but not everything.
“On this next to last Sunday in Ordinary Time, he explains that what will collapse and pass away are the penultimate things, not the ultimate ones: the temple, not God; kingdoms and human events, not humanity itself. The penultimate things, which often appear definitive but are not, pass away.”
The Holy Father went on to warn of two temptations – and stresses the need to replace haste with perseverance:
“The first is the temptation of haste, of the right now…how often do we let ourselves be seduced by a frantic desire to know everything right now, by the itch of curiosity, by the latest sensational or scandalous news, by lurid stories, by the screaming those who shout loudest and angriest, by those who tell us it is ‘now or never”’ This haste, this everything right now, does not come from God.
“As an antidote to haste, Jesus today proposes to each of us perseverance…Perseverance entails moving forward each day with our eyes fixed on what does not pass away: the Lord and our neighbor.”
And the other temptation? Francis explains:
“There is a second illusion that Jesus wants to spare us…It is the temptation of self-centredness. Christians, since we do not seek the right now but the forever, are not concerned with the me but with the you. Christians, that is, do not follow the siren song of their whims, but rather the call of love, the voice of Jesus.”
The Holy Father concludes by asking a question that might make some a bit uncomfortable: “Do I, a Christian, have at least one poor person as a friend?
“The poor are valuable in the eyes of God because they do not speak the language of the self: they do not support themselves on their own, by their own strength; they need someone to take them by the hand. The poor remind us how we should live the Gospel: like beggars reaching out to God. The presence of the poor makes us breathe the fresh air of the Gospel, where the poor in spirit are blessed (cf. Mt 5:3).”