Lectio Divina: Luke 21:5-11
1) Opening prayer
increase our eagerness to do your will
and help us to know the saving power of your love.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 21:5-11
When some were talking about the temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, “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.”
And they put to Him this question, “Master,” they said, “when will this happen, and what sign will there be that it is about to take place?”
But He said, “Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am the one’ and ‘The time is near at hand.’ Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be terrified, for this is something that must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then He said to them, “Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places; there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven.”
• The Gospel today begins with the discourse of Jesus called the Apocalyptic Discourse. It is a long discourse which will be the theme of the Gospels in the next days up to the last week of the liturgical year. For us of the XXI century, the apocalyptic language is strange and confusing. But, for the poor and persecuted people of the Christian communities of that time, these were the words that everybody understood and the principal purpose was to animate the faith and hope of the poor and oppressed. The apocalyptic language is the fruit of the witness of faith by these poor people, who in spite of the persecution, and against all contrary appearances, continued to believe that God was with them and that He continued to be the Lord of history.
• Luke 21, 5-7: Introduction to the Apocalyptic Discourse. In the days leading up to the Apocalyptic Discourse, Jesus had broken away from the temple (Lk 19, 45-48), the priests and the elders (Lk 20,1-26), the Sadducees (Lk 20, 27-40), and from the scribes who exploited the widows (Lk 20, 41-47). Finally, as we read in yesterday’s Gospel, He ends by praising the widow who gave as alms all she possessed (Lk 21,1-4). Now, in today’s Gospel, “while some were talking about the temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said: “The time will come when not a single stone will be left on another everything will be destroyed”. In listening to this comment of Jesus, the disciples asked: “Master, when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that it is about to take place?” They ask for more information. The Apocalyptic Discourse which follows is the response of Jesus to this question from the disciples on when and how the destruction of the temple will take place. The Gospel of Mark tells us the following about the context of this discourse which Jesus pronounces. He says that Jesus had left the city and was now sitting on the Mount of Olives (Mk 13, 2-4). There, from the top of the mountain He had a majestic view of the temple. Mark also says that there were only four disciples who listened to His last discourse. At the beginning of His preaching, three years before in Galilee, the crowds followed Jesus to listen to His words. Now, in the last discourse, there are only four who listen: Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mk 13, 3).
• Luke 21, 8: Objective of the discourse: "Take care not to be deceived!” The disciples had asked: “Master, when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that it is about to take place?” Jesus begins His response with a warning: “Take care not to be deceived. Many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am the one’ and ‘the time is near at hand’; refuse to join them”. At a time of change and confusion there are always people who want to take advantage of the situation and deceive others. This happens today and it happened in the time of the 80’s, at the time when Luke wrote his Gospel. Many thought that the end of time was close at hand with the disasters and wars of those years, and the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 and the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. There were people who said: “God no longer controls the events! We are lost!” This is why the main concern of the Apocalyptic Discourses is always the same: to help the communities to better discern the signs of the times. They should not be deceived by the conversations of people concerning the end of the world: "Take care not to be deceived”. The discourse offers signs to help them discern and increases their hope.
• Luke 21, 9-11: Signs to help them read the facts. After this brief introduction, the discourse begins: “When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be terrified, for this is something that must happen first, but the end will not come at once” Then He said to them: “Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places, there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven”. To understand these words one has to understand that Jesus lives and speaks in the year 33. The readers of Luke live and listen in the year 85. Now, in the 5o years between the year 33 and the year 85, the majority of things mentioned by Jesus had already taken place and were known to everyone. For example, in diverse parts of the world there were wars, false prophets arose, there were sicknesses and plagues, and in Asia Minor, the earthquakes were frequent. According to the apocalyptic style, this discourse lists all these events, one after the other, as signs or stages of the project of God in the history of the People of God, from the time of Jesus down to our time:
1st sign: the false Messiahs (Lk 21, 8);
2nd sign: war and revolutions (Lk 21, 9);
3rd sign: nations which fight against other nations, one kingdom against another kingdom (Lk 21, 10);
4th sign: earthquakes in different parts (Lk 21, 11);
5th sign: hunger, plagues and signs in the sky (Lk 21, 11).
Here ends the Gospel for today. That of tomorrow presents another sign: the persecution of the Christian communities (Lk 21, 12). Thus, by means of these signs within the Apocalyptic Discourse, the communities of the 80’s, the time when Luke wrote his Gospel, could see God’s plan and discover that history had not escaped the hands of God. Everything happened according to what was foretold and announced by Jesus in the Apocalyptic Discourse.
4) Personal questions
• What sentiment or feeling did you experience during the reading of today’s Gospel? Peace or fear?
• Do you think that the end of the world is close at hand? What can we answer to those who say that the end of the world is close at hand? How can we encourage people today to resist and to have hope?
5) Concluding prayer
Let the countryside exult, and all that is in it,
and all the trees of the forest cry out for joy,
at Yahweh's approach, for He is coming,
coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with saving justice,
and the nations with constancy. (Ps 96,12-13)