I was reading an article this weekend by Father James Schall, commenting on the election last week. His summary of his own article was, "We have here no lasting city." That is also a good summary of today's Gospel.
Why did Jesus say about the Temple, "there will not be one stone left on another"? To scare people? No; rather, to make the same point as Father Schall: in this world, we have no lasting city.
For the people listening to Jesus, the destruction of the Temple was a horrible thought -- the end of the world. And when it happened 40 years later, it was pretty horrible. Scholars debate whether the rest of what Christ said in this passage was about events then, or at the end of time, but we needn't worry about that. The answer is both. Christians today are facing the same persecution as the early Church, which this Gospel describes well.
Now, this time last week, I think a lot of us were dreading this election. We had a pretty strong turnout for Monday night's prayer vigil, to pray for the nation and the election. And I know many think the results are the answer to our prayers. They may well be, but only time will tell. You and I have high hopes for President-elect Trump, but we had better keep praying hard. If the Gospel has one clear point, it is that what seems so solid is not solid at all.
Only one thing is truly solid, and that is Christ himself!
Now, I want to call your attention to the first reading. Did you notice the two ways it talks about fire? For the "proud" and "evil doers," it is fire that punishes; it "consumes" them. What does that sound like? It sounds like hell to me.
But for those who fear God's Name? It is a sun of righteousness with "healing rays." Healing? What does that sound like? Sounds like purgatory to me.
Yet it is the same fire; the fire of God's truth and love.
Think about that. God is the same. God is good to all. His mercy is readily available, even at the last moment, as with St. Dismas, the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus. Yet, on the other side was another thief, who did not seek mercy. What was different? Same Jesus; same mercy; same peril for the two thieves.
Beware the sin of presumption! People think, "Oh, I can sin now, God will forgive me later." But that assumes something: that you will ask later. The reason the fire consumes the evil doers is that they were proud; they refused to ask.
The same fire that heals those open to God, will torment those whose hearts are closed.
This is a good time to remind you of our prayer project for Advent. Deepening our prayer is how we root ourselves in the one thing that is solid, Jesus Christ. The cards are in the pews, with how to sign up; it's free, no obligation, you can view the material online. This weekend will be the last time the cards are in the pews. Even if you don't want to join a group, we'd be grateful if you filled out the card, because that way we know people are taking advantage of this. This program costs money -- not a lot, but something -- and we want to know that it's worthwhile.
To circle back to where we began: in this world, we have no lasting city. But we do have a lasting hope: Jesus Christ! may he be praised, now and forever, amen!