Signs as Witness

Sunday 33 in Year C

  • First Reading ‡ Malachi 3:19-20 The sun of righteousness will shine on you.
  • Responsorial ‡ Psalm 97:5-9
    The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.
  • Second Reading ‡ 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 Do not give anyone food who refuses to work.
  • Gospel ‡ Luke 21:5-19 Your endurance will win you your life.

I must say that I have a real soft spot for the disciples. That sense of being a kid from the country and making your first trip into the big smoke. I remember as a young teenager when we were preparing to go to make our way up to Sydney – you know, the city of sin, the big smoke. And my brothers told me that people in the city do things a bit differently to us country kids. And so, we had practice sessions walking up and down the hallway, learning how to walk quickly because we didn’t want to stand out as country kids. So I started to walk quickly and it’s now a habit I haven’t stopped. And that sense of, you know, going into the city and seeing all the tall buildings and everything bigger and better.  

We stayed in this hotel in North Sydney because my two sisters were training to be nurses at the Mater Hospital. And so we stayed in a hotel just behind that. And the hotel had, wonderful views over the harbour and the city and my brothers again told me: “Don’t embarrass us, Rick. When we go in, just pretend this is the normal thing that we do. We go into nice hotels all the time.” And instead I walked in and go – “Wow, look at this view. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful” I feel for this sense of the disciples who see this temple who see the wonders and the splendour of the temple.  

I think to get a sense of how grand the temple was, it’s important to get a sense of the proportions of different size buildings. Now our little church here of Saint Johns, has a footprint of about 400 square meters. Now who knows what the biggest church in the world is? Saint Peter’s Basilica. Yes. I have strong memories for my first trip to Rome. The friend that I was traveling with made sure that we took the slow train into Rome. We didn’t get the express because that goes into Termini Station, and it’s a long way from there to go into Saint Peters. So we caught the surburban, slow train because that stopped at the Saint Peters station. So we’re then able just to walk around the corner and once we turn that corner and seeing this marvelous, you know, huge Basilica.  

St Peters has 15,600sqm. So ours is 400sqm. Saint Peters is 15,600 sqm, 1.5 hectares. The Jerusalem Temple? What do you reckon – about the same size as Saint Peter’s Basilica? A little bit bigger? A little bit smaller? What do you reckon? About the same size? This is about 400 square metres; Saint Peters Basilica, 15,600 or 1.5 hectares. The Temple compound at the time of Jesus took up 14.6 hectares or 146,000 sqm. By way of comparison, Macarthur Square has a net lettable area of 107,000 sqm, so it was 1 1/2 times bigger than Mac Square. Whereas it is on two or three levels, so spreading that out over to a single level, we get the sense of the proportion of the temple. 500,000 people could gather at one time within the temple forecourt. So it’s no wonder the country kids coming into Jerusalem for the first time, in seeing this marvellous, magnificent, huge building and just going: Jesus! Have a look at this thing. Your father’s house is pretty big, it’s pretty impressive.  

Hey, what does Jesus say the time will come? We’re not a single stone in this building will be left standing on top of another. And that of course happens under the Emperor Tiberius when he defeats the first major uprising of the Jews since the Maccabean Revolution, and he completely destroys in the year 70 laying siege in July to the city, and then over the next months. Indeed, taking that temple building stone by stone down 46 years, either taken for Herod to rebuild it, to enlarge it too and grandise it as much as he had done and this was all that was left. All we have now is just the foundation stones on the Western Wall. That is, that the Wailing wall for the Jewish people, then the disciples are dumbfounded about this. Well, when will this happen?  

What will be the signs and Jesus lists a series of signs that we’re all too familiar with. Nations will fight against nations and we see that the the different changes in the situation of Russia and Ukraine each day. There will be. Earthquakes and again there was another earthquake in Tonga this weekend. There will be. Signs that there will be warfare that we plague. So we famines here and there and we get this new wave of the coronavirus that refuses to go away and we continue to be bombarded by news of that thing, although we just all ignore it now and we don’t. Even worry about how many cases are rising, there’ll be Thunder and lightning. [A sudden storm erupts outside the church with a crash of thunder.] You know, it’s really great when you can orchestrate this, that God thank you for doing this.  

This light show to accompany our homily today, it’s really good. And what do we do? Jesus says well, don’t be distracted by any of those things. Don’t worry, these things will happen. They will continue to happen as they have happened over the last 2000 years. All these signs and wonders will continue to unfold. But what are we to do? We had to do the one and only necessary thing. And that’s to talk about him. To proclaim his name to speak of the wonder of what he has done in my life. The God has changed me. The God has saved me that even when I was still a sinner, St Paul says he loved me and gave himself for me. That’s the message that we need to focus on that’s. The gift that we need to share.  

Not to be distracted by all the stuff that surrounds us. All of the things that continue to flow around. Yes, we need to bring it back to the center and back to the person of Jesus and to announce his name and to declare the gift of his love to bear witness to bear testimony to the wonders of what God has done in me and through me as unworthy as I am as unworthy as most of us feel ourselves to be. But God is still there. Malachi tells us today in our wonderful first reading that God’s the one who’s going to purify us. He will be there as the refiner’s fire. He will be there to bring us into that furnace, not to destroy us, but to just get rid of everything that is not of God, everything that will not allow us to experience that freedom and that grace. Even though we feel ourselves sinners, he’s already got that accomplished as well because he’s forgiven our sins; he’s taken away our junk, our dross, all the things that are not of God.  

Let’s allow the Lord to continue to refine us so that we can be the ones who bear witness to his name. We don’t even have to worry, Jesus says. But what we had to say, he himself will provide the eloquence to be able to speak when the time. Teams, so let’s rest in that truth, not be distracted by all the stuff around us, but continue to move back to that central place of the gift of God’s love and allow that love to continue to be there within our lives to be experienced in our lives so that we can speak of that and share that gift and that grace into the world that surrounds us. 

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