The End of the World

Latin Mass: 24th or Last Sunday after Pentecost
Beloved in Jesus Christ, today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and so the Gospel calls to mind the final destruction of this world; the End.
The scene is striking. Our Lord had just spent the whole day in the Temple[i] debating with the Scribes and Pharisees, but it was impossible to penetrate their stone hearts.
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As Christ was leaving there in the evening, with a heavy heart, his disciples, perhaps to lift his spirits, called his attention to the beauty of the Temple. ‘And as Jesus left and was going away, his disciples came forward to show him the buildings of the temple. But he said to them, ‘Do you see all these things? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ The disciples were breathless with fear of what his words might mean.
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It was then that Christ spoke those shocking prophecies: the total destruction of the great Temple of Jerusalem, and the future destruction of the world.
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In the Holy Scriptures, we find that the earth – creation itself – is really seen as one giant temple. The Garden of Eden was described using some temple-imagery, the psalmist uses imagery to depict creation as a temple; creation, with Man at the top, possessing a mind and will – Man, who alone is able to offer everything in adoration to God.
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Now scholars tell us that the Temple of Jerusalem was really supposed to be a microcosm of this world, it was an image, if you will, of this world: The huge ‘sea’ of water, walls carved with flowers, a giant grape vine over the entrance; the blue veil in front of the Holy of Holies symbolized the sky, and beyond the sky, the Holy of Holies represented heaven.
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If it is then a sign of this universe, what does it mean if it is destroyed? A sign of the coming end of this world; and so, in one breath Our Lord speaks of both.
‘I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ ‘This generation shall not pass away, until all these things have been accomplished.’ And so it was true – the shocking destruction of the temple took place in those people’s generation, just 37 years after Jesus’ prophecy.
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After it was burned to the ground, the greedy soldiers searching for the gold that melted from the fire, turned over every single stone to get it.
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But not just the end of the temple was prophesied; the world as well: ‘the day nor the hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,’ says the Lord. ‘People will be eating and drinking – partying away – as in the days of Noah.
‘You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; nation will rise against nation; there will be pestilence and famines and earthquakes. They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my names sake. And there will be a great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world.
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So Our Lord is speaking at once about the end of the Temple, and also the coming end of the world.
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I was at an airport, and a young Jewish man came over to talk. He was studying to be a Rabbi, and he recognized me as a Catholic priest.
‘This is a sad time for us, he said, ‘it is the ‘Three Weeks;’ the Bein ha-Metzarim.[ii] This is when we remember the destruction of the Temple. I said to him, Yes, the destruction of the temple in 70AD. But you know, we Christians have another understanding of this, not so sad.
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The temple was great and glorious, for sure, and it was the site of the sacrifices by the priests. But the temple was a sign, a pre-figurement, pointing to a new priesthood of Jesus, the Messiah – a new Sacrifice – and a New Temple.
Ezekiel prophesied an entirely new, glorious temple. And this glorious temple is in heaven, which the Jewish temple was preparing for.
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Destroyed? Only in the sense that it was a sign, preparing the way. That temple offered sheep and goats in sacrifice, but those pre-figured the True Sacrifice of the Messiah, which we renew on our altars today. The priesthood continues, the priesthood of Jesus – and at the Catholic Mass, we are participating in the praise of God in the Eternal Temple of heaven.
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We spoke some more, especially about the Jewish roots of our Faith. The Mass as fulfillment of Passover.
Then he said, ‘Father, almost no one knows, even few Jewish people know, that it was also at this time of the Three Weeks, that we believe Moses threw down and broke the 10 commandments because of sin.[iii] So we are mourning this too.
‘That’s VERY interesting,’ I told him. And I thanked him for the discussion, time to get on the plane, he was on a different flight.
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So I’m on the plane, sitting down, and the woman next to me says, ‘You’re a priest.’ ‘Yes,’ I said.
I’m Jewish!, she said. In fact, I have been doing research on my religion in Israel. Father, did you know that this is a very sad time for us? It is when the Temple was destroyed.
‘I said, yes. ‘And you know, it is very interesting, that it was also during this time, long ago, that Moses broke the 10 commandments.’ ‘How did you know that?!!!!!!’, she asked me!
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Friends, people today live as if the world will never end, as if THEY will never end. When I cover the subject of the End Times with the kids in school, one question I always ask is very simple: ‘True or false: This world will one day come to an end.’ True. Strangely, we have to be reminded of this.
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At the end of the Liturgical Year, Mother Church presents to us this subject, to be pondered: the End Times. Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple, which happened in the exact detail as he described it. So when he tells us that this world will end, it will. This world, this life – is temporary.
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Next week we will speak of what will be the signs of the End of the World, and the 2nd Coming. But this week, we remember our mortality; we know not when the world will end, nor when our life will end. So let’s live each day for the glory of God.
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As St. John Vianney used to day, ‘All the saints did not start out so well, but they ended well.’
May the Blessed Virgin help all of us, to end well.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Augustine]

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[i] A Parochial Course in Doctrinal Instructions, p. 540

[ii] The day the destruction of the Temple is remembered is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av at the end of the Three Weeks.

[iii] The breaking of the 10 Commandments was on the first day of the Three Weeks, Tammuz 17.

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