Jubilee Year of Mercy Final Homily
Jesus' words about the destruction of the temple must have been shocking to the people. The temple had stood as the house of God for 1000 years since the time of King Solomon, except for the 70 years when it lay in ruins after the Babylonian conquest. The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem would mean the end of Jewish religious life, a life that was centered on the worship of God in that temple.
When Jesus was asked when the temple would be destroyed, He then went on to speak about other things that would happen: human disasters like wars and insurrections as well as natural disasters: earthquakes, famines, and plagues.
We know from history that Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the temple was fulfilled in the year 70 AD when the Roman armies conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. History is replete with the human and natural disasters which Jesus spoke about. We still see these disasters happening today: wars, earthquakes, epidemics, etc.
Jesus also prophesied about the persecution of his followers by both religious and civil authorities. All one has to do is read the Acts of the Apostles to see that this indeed happened in the early decades of the Church’s history. Such persecution has occurred throughout history. Even today, one only needs to read the newspapers and read about the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world, including the brutal persecution by ISIS.
Reflecting on this Gospel and Our Lord’s words about the destruction of the temple, about human and natural disasters, and about persecution, what are we to do? Our Lord teaches us. First, in the face of these things, the Lord tells us not to be deceived. He says not to follow false teachers, to be on guard against those who use His name and claim to speak for Him, saying the end of the world is here. These false prophets arise now and then. We shouldn’t follow them.
Another thing Jesus tells us is not to be terrified by the calamities he speaks about. How often Our Lord says in the Gospels not to be afraid. He wants us to face difficulties, tragedies, and persecutions with trust in Him and His loving mercy.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we have contemplated the mercy of God. This has been a beautiful time to contemplate God’s steadfast love. When we do so, we learn to trust God and our fears are overcome. We learn to persevere amid trials and tribulations because we believe as we pray in the psalms that God’s mercy endures forever. He is always at our side with his love and protection.
I think this the sentence in the Gospel is quite important. Our Lord says: “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” Perseverance, endurance, determination: we usually think of these words in the arena of sports or other areas in which we strive for excellence. But we need to think about the need for perseverance, endurance, and determination in our spiritual lives, in our lives as disciples of Jesus.
Faith can be shaken by the things Jesus speaks about in the Gospel: human and natural disasters and persecution. Christians can even be tempted by the struggles and difficulties of life to forsake Christ and His Church. The Lord is saying, “No.” He is telling us to persevere with hope because ultimately everything, the world and history and each of our lives, are in His hands. No matter what happens in our lives, the Lord is with us. His mercy and love will never fail. And if we ever doubt this, all we have to do is look at the crucifix. The crucified Jesus shows us that evil is overcome by good and that love is more powerful than sin and hatred. His Resurrection shows that love is even more powerful than death.
The Lord invites us to face the daily events of our lives, including pain and suffering, with trust in his mercy and providential love. Even when bad things happen or things don’t work out the way we wish, we need not fear because God is with us. He is always Emmanuel.
Some people fear the future. That fear can be paralyzing. Because Donald Trump was elected president, some are very afraid about the future and speak of his election as a calamity. If Hillary Clinton had been elected, others would feel the same way. But for us who are disciples of Jesus, the dramas of human history, including political elections, are not the ultimate word. The ultimate word is THE WORD, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. We don’t ignore politics or neglect our responsibilities on earth to build a culture of life and civilization of love and to serve the cause of peace and justice. And we should pray for our political leader, including our new president and other elected officials. In everything, we look to the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the Lord of history. He is our shepherd and Lord, our hope and our salvation.
As we come to the end of this time of grace, this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I invite you to persevere in mercy. I’ve been edified seeing you and the faithful all over our diocese living Pope Francis’ call to mercy. So many have been bearing witness to God’s mercy by reaching out to the poor and needy through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Thousands have prayed in our two cathedrals and at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and received the Jubilee Indulgence. For this, we give thanks to God, the Father of mercies.
The Jubilee pilgrimages are ending, but our pilgrimage of faith continues. The motto of the Jubilee Year, “Merciful like the Father”, should be the motto of our journey of life, not just for the Jubilee Year. “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful,” Jesus says. This is our program of life and the program of the Church’s life. May we continue to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us! And may Mary, our mother of mercy, continue to teach and inspire us to be heralds and instruments of mercy in a world so in need of God’s mercy. As Pope Francis says: “May we never grow tired of extending mercy!” Instead, may we persevere in living the Gospel of mercy, remembering Jesus’ promise: “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”
Bishop Kevin Rhoades