by Tom Cordaro, Pax Christi USA – Illinois
Most biblical scholars tell us that the Gospel of Luke was written sometime between the Year 80 AD and 90 AD (about 50 years after the resurrection.) This means that today’s Gospel reading, about the destruction of the Temple, is actually a commentary written in response to events that had already taken place.
In the year 70, Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, effectively ending a Jewish revolt against the Empire that had begun four years earlier. This was one of the most traumatic events in the life of the Jewish people. It shook the very foundation of the Jewish faith and dramatically transformed the way the Jewish faith was practiced going forward.
The Jewish faith that we are accustom to – centered on the study of Torah and observance of the Sabbath – was not the central practice of the faith that existed prior to the destruction of the Temple. Prior to this catastrophe the central practice of the Jewish faith was Temple sacrifice which was conducted by the priests on behalf of the people. To a large extent, without sacrifice there was no Jewish faith.
All of that changed when the Romans destroyed the Temple. As a result the Jewish people needed to reinvent the practice of their faith if they were to survive. Fortunately, out of the same branch of Judaism that gave us the Pharisees, the Jewish people were able to move from a temple/sacrifice-based religion to a Torah-based religion.
And for that peculiar sect of Jews and Gentiles that later came to be known as Christians, the destruction of the Temple was just as devastating. To make sense of this disaster Luke’s community reflected on the wisdom of Jesus in order to figure out a way to move forward.
Jesus had reminded them that all of the magnificent wealth, majesty and power of the Temple were only passing and that all that seemed permanent and eternal was only temporary. Jesus also warned that over time other disasters and catastrophes would befall his disciples but he encouraged them not to give into panic or despair.
Instead Jesus encouraged them to persevere.
By this Jesus did not mean that his disciples should just grit their teeth and wait it out until better days. He meant that they should persevere in loving where others hate; they should persevere in forgiving where others harden their hearts; they should persevere in showing mercy where others condemn; they should persevere in embracing the Kingdom in good times and in bad; they should persevere in faith, hope and love for the sake of the world.
These words are as true today as they were when Luke wrote them.