Jesus’ words to us at the beginning of today’s Gospel are a striking reminder that this world is only temporary. This world will eventually come to an end, and everything that we see will be thrown down. As for when this will happen, though, the answer is not clear!
Jesus speaks of wars, insurrections, and natural disasters taking place, and even about persecutions that the followers of Christ will face for the sake of His name. One might think that all these things would be signs that the end is near, but Jesus is quick to caution us that even though these things must take place, the end will not follow immediately. In fact, prior to speaking about wars and insurrections, he issues a warning to not be led astray by those who claim to know when the end of the world will be.
In our own lifetime, we have seen how dangerous it can be to allow ourselves to be led astray by false predictions of the end of the world. Perhaps you might remember that in 2011, a gentleman by the name of Harold Camping predicted that the final judgment would take place on May 21, 2011. Those who were left behind after the judgment were told that they would face five months of unspeakable torture, before the world was destroyed on October 21, 2011. Some of Camping’s followers had so much faith in his message that they quit their jobs, sold their homes, and used their money to promote Camping’s claims. I’ve often wondered what those followers did on May 22, when they realized that their faith had been misplaced. I hope and pray that their faith in God was not completely destroyed as a result of that experience.
Jesus reminds us at the end of the Gospel today that “by your endurance you will gain your souls.” To endure in this way means that we live each day as if it were our last, so that we are always prepared to meet the Lord when he comes. That coming may be in glory at the end of time, or it may be when we stand before the Lord at the hour of our death. Living in this way helps us to avoid becoming preoccupied with worry about when the world might end, because we know that we are doing our best to always live out the Gospel in all that we do.