Last week I challenged us to consider what difference we would make in this life, and to what degree we will have personally advanced the kingdom of God. I asked us to reflect on this question, “What difference have I made in this world–what is my contribution?” These are very important questions, indeed. Today the Gospel invites us to consider the quality of that contribution. Today we ask, “Will my work stand the test of time? Am I building on earth, or am I building up my faith with God?
I will absolutely admit that I love beautiful things–cars, homes, cathedrals. When I visited Italy–and Rome in particular–I was just so impressed at the majesty and beauty of the great Cathedrals and of the Vatican. This church itself is beautiful. I was working at St. Stanislaus Parish on J street when the new Church on Maze was built–it’s beautiful. And when those buildings are complete it is quite natural to just stand back and say, “Man, that’s amazing!” And that’s where we find Jesus in the Gospel today. The temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt in 515BC after its destruction by the Babylonians in 586BC.
The Gospel tells us that while people were standing around they were marveling at the costly stones and offerings. That’s an ancient way of saying they were impressed with the bling. Jesus says, “It’s all coming down. Everything you see here will crumble.” And of course we know that it did–in 70AD the Romans destroyed Solomon’s Temple, in Jerusalem, and it has not been rebuilt to this day.
Jesus’ point is that we have a tendency to be overly impressed with the things of the earth, and when they are destroyed we are shaken–we’re upset. Today he tells us we should expect difficulty and suffering in this life. Two thousand years ago Jesus said we would have wars, earthquakes, famine, and plagues.” Uh, wars, check, earthquakes, check, famine, check…and most recently…COVID, check. And he tells us that these things will happen…in fact, he says, “they must happen first” and that we should not be afraid because this is just the beginning. Christians will be persecuted, jailed, betrayed by their own relatives, and some will be killed.” Check, check, and check…
Jesus did not and does not promise us a rose garden. Jesus never promises his disciples that once they follow him all their troubles will fade away. No, it’s exactly the opposite. When we choose to follow him, we should expect difficulty, struggle, opposition, and persecution both from the enemy and from those who follow him. Jesus says we will be hated by all because of the name of Jesus, but even still, with all this trial, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Perseverance in what? Faith.
Faith: our relationship with Jesus. If our relationship with Jesus remains strong–our prayer, belief, trust, and hope–then the world can fall apart all around us, and we’re good. The most amazing things ever built in this world can crumble to dust and we won’t even bat an eye. We can lose our home, our business, our cars, and even those that we love–and we will not be shaken, because Jesus said this would happen, and that He would be there always through the thick of it. Jesus promises that we will have suffering, loss, and trials–some of us are in the midst of those trials right now–but his promise is that he will be with us in the midst of those trials and that he will raise us on the last day–that’s the promise.
Our veterans know this best, I think. Courageous men and women who stout-heartedly walk through the valley of death and fear no evil because He is at their side. We look to our veterans as examples of courage in the midst of tribulation. Veteran’s day is not only about giving thanks for their service, but about being inspired by their love and selfless sacrifice. On this weekend, honor them, thank them, but most importantly, imitate them.