Fr Paul returns today and, before reading today’s Gospel, extends his thanks to everyone for their thoughts, prayers and concerns during his recent health issues and his subsequent break for recovery. He thanks God for the healing and effort that has been put in by so many people to bring him to this day. Fr Paul also extends his thanks to his colleagues, who over the last four weeks stepped in and continued the reflections in his absence.
Fr Paul then reads from the Gospel of Luke (21: 5-11) in which Jesus tells his disciples “take care not to be deceived. For many will come using my name, and saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near at hand’.
In today’s Gospel, Fr Paul says, Jesus is talking to his disciples and this discourse or conversation is recorded in three of the four Gospels – in Mark, Matthew and Luke. All of them have this conversation taking place as Jesus faces the final days of his life and his ministry. In Luke’s Gospel, he uses the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, where this discussion is taking place as the focus, because the destruction of the temple, its end and the end of Jerusalem came in 70AD when the Roman armies besieged and levelled the city.
Fr Paul says, if we look carefully at what Jesus is saying, he is saying that the end will not come at once, that the destruction will not happen for some time, that the work of the disciples will happen before all these things take place. Jesus is saying to the disciples that they have the opportunity to prepare, to be ready, for when this destruction comes.
So for our reflection now, Fr Paul says, the Church quite purposely and soberingly puts the question of the end of the world or the end of our person lives here at the end of our Church’s year, which takes place this week. Next week we begin the season of Advent, we begin a new Church year and we begin our preparations for Christmas.
In these final days, Fr Paul notes, this theme of preparation is very much at the heart of what the church is asking us to reflect on. How ready, how prepared, am I if the end was to come today, either the end of the world or the end of my personal life? What is it that I might need to do? What is it that I might need to prepare in relationships? What is it that I need to do in order to be ready for the end?