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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS FORETELLS THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE END OF THE WORLD

“In great sorrow Jesus brought His public preaching to a close with a solemn warning of destruction to Jerusalem. Then He sat down opposite the Temple treasury and watched the people offering their gifts to the Temple. He observed the splendid gifts of the rich. But he also observed a poor widow putting in two mites, a small sum, but all she had to live on. He called this to the attention of His disciples.

‘Amen I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting money into the treasury. For they have all been putting money in out of their abundance; but she out of her want has put in all that she had – all that she had to live on’ (Mark 12:43-44).

JESUS CHRIST’S OWN PEOPLE WILL REJECT HIM

This little incident is both a solace to Jesus and a lesson to His disciples. Jesus has come from heaven to offer men the precious gift of salvation, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. But the Scribes and the Pharisees have rejected Him. Under their leadership His own people will reject Him and demand His death. Their unwillingness to receive Him shows, on their part, a lack of total dedication to the love of God. When Jesus sees the poor widow giving all that she has to the Temple, His heart rejoices at this example of total love of God. In pointing it out to His disciples He means to tell them once again that it is the spirit which inspires a gift that makes it valuable in the eyes of God. The rich gifts offered by the wealthy were praiseworthy. But since they were only a small part of the abundance of the wealthy, they did not symbolise so well the total gift of one’s self which God demands of every man. But by giving all that she possessed the widow showed in fact that she was totally dedicated to God.

‘THERE WILL NOT BE LEFT ONE STONE UPON ANOTHER’

After this incident Jesus and His disciples remembered His warning of the approaching doom of Jerusalem. They could not help but contrast the beauty and the solidity of the stone walls of the Temple with the sad forecast of the ruin of the Holy City. One of them said to Jesus,

‘Master, look, what wonderful stones and buildings!’ Jesus replied, ‘Dost thou see all these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mark 13:1-2).

Jesus and the band of disciples went then to the Mount of Olives. There the curiosity of the disciples could no longer be restrained. Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him, ‘Tell us, when are these things to happen, and what will be the sign when all these things will begin to come to pass?’ (Mark 13:4).

DID JESUS MEAN TO CONVEY THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING SOON?

In the minds of the disciples there must have been great confusion. They had accepted Jesus as the Messias. Since they were Jews it was natural for them to expect the Messias to bring great glory to the Chosen People and to Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. But Jesus had just told them that Jerusalem would be left desolate and the great Temple, the centre of worship of Jahweh, would be destroyed. Perhaps they thought also that the destruction of the Temple would occur only when the Son of Man (spoken of by the prophet Daniel) came in glory to establish the final Kingdom of God at the end of the world. Of what then could Jesus be speaking? Did He mean that the end of the world was coming soon and that then His own glory would be manifested to all men?

WOULD THE GLORY OF THE SON OF MAN BE MANIFESTED TO ALL MEN SHORTLY?

Jesus, in replying to their question, spoke of both the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world. But He distinguished the two events. They were not to be simultaneous, but rather separated by some interval of time. The destruction of Jerusalem would come during the lifetime of the generation of men who had listened to Jesus Himself. But the end of the world would come later, at a time determined by God the Father. When this time might be was not permitted to men to know. But it would be preceded by signs which would warn the followers of Jesus of its approach.

THE FOLLOWING THINGS TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN THE YEAR 70 A.D.:

As for the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus first warned His disciples to beware of false Christs, men who would claim to be the Messias. These false Christs would only lead the people astray. There would be wars, and rumours of wars, He told them, pestilences, famine and earthquakes. The He added, ‘And when you see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not – let him who reads understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not go down and enter to take anything from his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe to those who are with child, or have infants at the breast in those days! But pray that these things may not happen in winter’ (Mark 13:14-18).

All these things took place before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. False Messiases arose and led the people into revolt against the authority of Rome. Jerusalem was besieged. Its people suffered from famine and pestilence.

As for the disciples themselves, Jesus told them, ‘But be on your guard. For they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, a witness to them’ (Mark 13:9).

THE APOSTLES WERE NOT TO BE AFRAID

When this persecution came upon the disciples they were not to be afraid. ‘And when they lead you away to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to speak; but speak whatever is given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit… And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:11-13).

The disciples of Jesus are urged by Him to face persecution without fear. They will be working for God, for ‘the gospel must first be preached to all nations’ (Mark 13:10).

JERUSALEM WAS ENCIRCLED BY VESPASIAN’S AND TITUS’ TROOPS

God Himself, therefore, will speak through them, and if they persevere they will be saved.

That the first Christian community took His warning seriously is proved by the fact that the Christians there fled to Pella just before the encirclement of the city by the troops of Vespasian and Titus.

THE ANGELS WILL GATHER HIS ELECT FROM THE FOUR WINDS

The mind of Jesus then turned to the thought of the end of the world. With prophetic insight He foresaw the signs which would precede His coming as the Son of Man in power and majesty to judge the world. ‘Then,’ He said, ‘there will be great tribulation, such as has not been found from the beginning of the world until now, nor will be. And unless those days had been shortened, no living creature would have been saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then, if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ do not go forth; ‘Behold, he is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty. And he will send forth his angels with a trumpet and a great sound, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’ (Matthew 24:21-31).

‘BUT OF THAT DAY OR HOUR NO ONE KNOWS… BUT THE FATHER ONLY’

Before the world comes to an end, then, a number of false Christs will appear, seeking to lead men astray. So powerful will be the forces of evil that even the elect would be led astray except that God will shorten the time so that they may be saved. Just when the end will come Jesus does not say.

‘But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only’ (Mark 13:32).

Jesus does not mean that as the Son of God He is Himself ignorant of the day when the world will end. He means that this is knowledge which God the Father does not allow to angels or men, but reserves for God alone. Jesus, as the Son of God, knows the day and the hour, but as the Messias He will not reveal it to men.

OUR LORD JESUS’ COMING WILL BE AS QUICK AND AS SUDDEN AS LIGHTNING

The destruction of Jerusalem, as Jesus foretold it, would not be sudden, its approach would not be unrecognisable. Men would have an opportunity to flee from the city and escape its fate. But the end of the world would come suddenly and men will find no chance to escape.

Neither will they be able to recognise its approach clearly.

‘And as it was in the days of Noe [Noah], even so will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noe entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away; even so will the coming of the Son of Man be’ (Matthew 24:37-39). Or, as Jesus had already said, His coming will be as quick as sudden as a bolt of lightning searing the sky from east to west.

‘TAKE HEED, WATCH AND PRAY’

Because of the uncertainty of the time of the end of the world Jesus warns His disciples to be ready at every moment for that final catastrophe. ‘Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is’ (Mark 13:33).

In several parables Jesus emphasised the necessity of being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world. ‘As a man,’ He said, ‘when he leaves home to journey abroad, puts his servants in charge, to each his work, and gives orders to the porter to keep watch. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or early in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping’ (Mark 13:34-36).

Or again, ‘Watch, therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come’ (Matthew 24:42-44).

Or, ‘Who, dost thou think, is the faithful and prudent servant whom his master has set over his household to give them their food in due time? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find doing so. Amen I say to you, he will set him over all his goods. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master delays his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day he does not expect, and in an hour he does not know, and will cut him asunder and make him share the lot of the hypocrites. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 24:45-51).

THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH VIRGINS

Lastly Jesus made the same point in the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. Ten virgins went out joyfully to attend a wedding. They carried lamps to light their way. Five were wise and carried also some vessels of oil to replenish their lamps if it became necessary. But five were foolish and carried no extra supply. The coming of the bridegroom was delayed. The virgins fell asleep. When the bridegroom came they arose and prepared to attend the marriage feast. But the lamps of the foolish virgins had gone out and so they were late in arriving at the feast. The door was shut. The bridegroom, not knowing them, refused to let them in.

…TO MEET JUDGMENT UNAFRAID

In all these parables Jesus was emphasising the point that His disciples should be prepared always to meet judgment at the hands of the Son of Man. ‘Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the Son of Man’ (Luke 21:36).

No man may know when the end of the world will be. But all men must be prepared to meet it at any moment. They must watch and pray so that they meet judgment unafraid.

‘HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD’

This thought of the end of the world and of the second coming of the Son of Man is followed quite naturally in the discourse of Jesus by a description of the judgment of men at the end of time. ‘But when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory and before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the just will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and feed thee; or thirsty, and give thee drink? And when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and come to thee?’ And answering the king will say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left hand, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life’ (Matthew 25:31-46).

THE JUDGMENT WILL BE BASED ON THE LAW OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

As the Son of Man, the apocalyptic figure spoken of by the prophet Daniel, Jesus will come at the end of the world to judge all men. His judgment will be based on the law of love which He so often preached to men. Those who have loved their fellowmen enough to aid them in their need will be given eternal life with God. Those who have not followed this law of love will be punished eternally in the fire of hell prepared for the devil and his angels. At the moment of judgment the secret of all history will be revealed.

THE SECRET OF ALL HISTORY WILL BE REVEALED

Jesus does not tell us the full nature of this secret. But He tells us enough for us to know that it flows in some mysterious way from the free wills of God, the angels and men. In the transcendent freedom of His will God has loved the universe enough to give it being, existence. And He has given it existence for the sake of His elect, angels and men whom He will gather from every corner of the universe to share His Kingdom with Him. The elect are those who live by the law of love, love of God and love of one another. Their love is the free choice of their own wills, echoing generously the creative act of God’s free decision to make the world. But some angels, and some men, will freely choose not to imitate the divine love; they will refuse to love [unconditionally], and in their refusal they will reject both God and all others. They will be punished by their own refusal; having rejected [unconditional] love, the secret of the universe, they must live forever in the self-corrosion of hate.

TO LOVE ANYONE IS TO LOVE HIM WHO IS THE BROTHER OF ALL

The disciples of Jesus might have wondered that Jesus mentioned only love of men as the basis for the final judgment of all men. Surely, they might have thought, men should be judged on the basis of their love for God. But Jesus had already taught them that it was God’s will that they should love all men as they loved themselves. In so doing they would be loving God Himself.

And in Jesus Himself there is an ever deeper reason why this is true. Jesus is God Himself come to earth, God-made-man. By taking to Himself a human nature, the Son of God has become the neighbour, in fact, the brother of all mankind. By His own free decision He has identified Himself with all men. To love anyone, therefore, is to love Him, Who is the brother of all. And to love Him is to love not just a man but God Himself.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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THE MIRACLE OF THE CURSED FIG TREE WAS A SIGN OF THE PUNISHMENT OF JERUSALEM FOR ITS REJECTION OF THE MESSIAH

THE LAST PUBLIC PREACHING OF JESUS

“Jesus had come to Jerusalem to offer His life as a ransom for the sins of mankind. Men could receive the gift of salvation He promised, of the eternal life which He came to give them, if they would believe in Him, accept Him as the Messias, as, in fact, the very Son of God.

Some men had come to believe in Jesus. The twelve Apostles and a small band of intimate disciples gave themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus. Perhaps some large number of the people, impressed by the miracles of Jesus, were at least interested enough to await some further sign of the power and intentions of Jesus. But the leaders of the people, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were opposed to Him. So determined was their opposition that they had resolved to put Him to death. Since the people generally were looking for a political Messias, the death of Jesus would cause them to forsake Him completely.

THE JEWISH PEOPLE WERE LOOKING FOR A POLITICAL MESSIAH

Jesus knew this. But His love for His own people induced Him to make one last effort to gain their belief. On the Monday after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus left Bethany and went again to the Holy City. On the way there Jesus performed a miracle whose strangeness makes us realise that He must have intended it to have a symbolic meaning.

A VERY STRANGE MIRACLE

As the little band approached Jerusalem, they passed near a fig tree. It was early in the spring and the tree might well have begun to show new leaves. But, as St Mark notices, it was too early for the tree to have figs. Jesus went to the tree as if He would find figs upon it. Finding none on it, He said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from thee henceforward forever’ (Matthew 21:19). Now, when the Apostles passed by the same place the next morning, they saw that the fig tree had died.

With the exception of this one instance, all the miracles of Jesus were productive of good. All His other miracles were signs of love and mercy. There must, then, be a deeper meaning to this miracle than at first sight appears. The general context of what is taking place in this decisive week in the life of Jesus will help us to fathom the intent of this mysterious action of Jesus.

JESUS KNOWS THAT JERUSALEM WILL REJECT HIM

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, the City of God. Its people have been prepared for centuries to expect the Messias, to receive Him, and in Him to bring forth the blessing, the salvation of all the nations of the world. But Jesus knows that Jerusalem will reject Him; its people will refuse to accept Him, and consequently they will bear no fruit for the salvation of the world. Because they will reject Him, the salvation of the world, they will be rejected by God, and they will wither away like the fig tree. The miracle of the fig tree is, therefore, a sign to the Apostles of the punishment of Jerusalem for its rejection of the Messias.

‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS’

After the rejection of the fig tree Jesus continued on His way to Jerusalem. According to the Gospel of St Mark, when Jesus entered the Temple precincts, he expelled the money-changers from the Temple, saying, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ (Mark 11:17). The Gospel of St John seems to indicate that this incident took place on the occasion of an earlier visit of Jesus to the Temple. It is, of course, possible that Jesus may have acted this way on two separate occasions.

JESUS ENCOURAGED THE APOSTLES IN THEIR FAITH

The rest of the day was spent by Jesus in teaching the people and in working miracles for those in need. The priests and the Scribes were anxious to bring about His death, but the interest and the approval of the people were too strong. They had to wait for a more propitious moment to trap Him.

In the evening Jesus returned again to Bethany. The following morning, Tuesday, Jesus went again to Jerusalem. On the way the Apostles noticed the withered fig tree. When they wondered at its withering, Jesus told them that even greater miracles could be performed by themselves if only they would have a strong, unwavering faith in God. He said this to encourage them in their faith for He knew that His approaching death would be a great trial for them.

JESUS CHRIST’S AUTHORITY

The enemies of Jesus were becoming increasingly more anxious about the daily teaching of Jesus in the Temple. On this day they made a serious attempt to discredit Him.

Why He was teaching the people, His enemies came and asked Him by what authority He taught as He did. Instead of answering directly, Jesus, in His turn, asked them this question: ‘Whence was the baptism of John? from heaven, or from men?’ (Matthew 21:25). The question placed them in an embarrassing position. The people were convinced that John the Baptist had been a true prophet, in the mold of Elias and Isaias. If the enemies of Jesus were to answer (as they thought) that the baptism of John was only from men, they would lose the support of the people. On the other hand, if they said they thought it was from God, while they would not antagonise the people, they would entrap themselves. For Jesus could then ask them why they had not accepted the baptism of John, and above all, why they did not accept Jesus Himself, whom the Baptist had hailed as the Messias.

Since they had hardened their hearts against Jesus, they could find no escape from this dilemma, except to say, ‘We do not know.’ Since they had really refused to answer His question, Jesus, in turn, said to them, ‘Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things’ (Matthew 21:27).

JESUS MAKES THE POINT MORE CLEARLY

While they were thus on the defensive Jesus pressed His advantage more directly. ‘A man,’ He said, ‘had two sons; and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard” (Matthew 21:28). The son replied that he would not go. But later he repented and went and worked in his father’s vineyard. The father gave the same command to his other son. This one said that he would work in the vineyard. But he did not keep his word.

Jesus then asked the priests and the elders of the people which of the two sons had done the father’s will. They were forced to reply, ‘The first.’ Jesus pointed out that while sinners – publicans and harlots – had disobeyed God by their sins, they had believed in John the Baptist and had repented of their sins and returned obediently to God their Father. The priests and elders, on the other hand, while professing obedience to God, had rejected John the Baptist and so had not done penance.

THEY HAD NOT DONE PENANCE

Jesus was not concerned with the acceptance or rejection of John the Baptist by the priests and elders of the people. John had already done his work to prepare the people for the coming of the kingdom which Jesus was to establish. He had already pointed to Jesus as the Messias. It was now the time for the elders of the people to accept Jesus as the Messias or to reject Him, and thus by their example help to save or ruin their own people.

WILL THEY BE SAVED OR RUINED?

The necessity of this decision and its consequences were made clear in the parable of the wicked vine-dressers.

THE PARABLE OF THE WICKED VINE-DRESSERS

The owner of a vineyard, Jesus said, left it in the care of vine-dressers. When the harvest was due, he sent his servants to collect his share of it. But the vine-dressers refused to acknowledge his claim. Instead they treated his servants shamefully, beating some and even killing others. Finally the owner sent his own son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son’ (Matthew 21:37). But they seized the son and killed him also. What, Jesus asked, will the owner of the vineyard do to those vine-dressers? They answered Him, ‘He will utterly destroy those evil men, and will let out the vineyard to other vine-dressers, who will render to him the fruits in their seasons’ (Matthew 21:41).

‘THE OWNER OF THE VINEYARD’ IS GOD

The owner of the vineyard is God. The vine-dressers are the Jews, God’s Chosen People. The servants of the owner are the prophets whom God sent to direct His people. But, over the centuries, the people have rejected the prophets, God’s servants. Now at last God has sent His own Son. But the people will kill the Son of God as they have killed the prophets.

THE CORNERSTONE

It would seem from St Matthew’s Gospel that the elders of the people did not identify themselves as the wicked vine-dressers of the parable, nor Jesus as the son of the owner. Jesus therefore, to point the lesson, introduced another metaphor by quoting from the Scriptures: ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, has become the corner stone; by the Lord this has been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?’?’ (Matthew 21:42).

BECAUSE THEY REJECT JESUS THEY WILL LOSE THE KINGDOM

Jesus Himself is the stone, which the people will reject, but God will make Him the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. Because they reject Jesus they will lose the kingdom. Jesus makes this clear by using both the figure of the vineyard and its fruits and the figure of the cornerstone. ‘Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and will be given to a people yielding its fruits. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but upon whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder’ (Matthew 21:43-44).

JESUS DIDN’T COME AS A POLITICAL MESSIAH; HIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD

Unable to refute the claim of Jesus to be in a unique way the Son of God, and yet unwilling to accept Him as God’s Son, His enemies then tried to bring about His downfall by making Him appear to be in conflict with the ruling Roman authorities. They sent agents to trap Him. Posing as sincere Jews, anxious to follow the law of God exactly, they asked Jesus, ‘Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?’ (Matthew 22:17).

The question was chosen with great guile. To have answered simply either ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ would have been disastrous to the cause of Jesus. The answer, ‘No,’ would have been in accord with the sympathies of the people (though not with the sympathies of the Pharisees and Herodians who had sent these spies to ensnare Jesus – which is why Jesus called them ‘hypocrites’). But if Jesus had said ‘No,’ He would have appeared to the Romans as a revolutionary inciting the people to rebellion. Moreover, and this was even more opposed to the intention of Jesus Himself, He would have appeared to His own people as a political Messias, anxious to precipitate a revolt and establish a political Jewish kingdom.

A VERY CUNNING QUESTION

On the other hand, if Jesus had given in answer a simple ‘Yes,’ then He would have forfeited the sympathies of His countrymen by seeming to favour the Roman domination over the Jews. To a people whose Messianic hopes were almost entirely political, this would have meant that Jesus was disclaiming any right to the title of Messias.

Jesus did not answer in words at once. ‘Show me the coin of the tribute,’ He asked. When they had brought to Him a silver penny, He asked them, ‘Whose are this image and this inscription?’ (Matthew 22:20). ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Jesus then said, ‘Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). The people marvelled at His answer.

THE PEOPLE MARVELLED AT HIS ANSWER

In replying to the question Jesus said ‘Yes,’ but in such a way that both the rights of God and the consciences of the people were protected. In effect Jesus said that it is lawful to obey an existing government (even when the government is unpopular) when that government is levying taxes to ensure the public order and peace. It is even possible that Jesus, by asking for the coin of the tribute, a silver penny, a coin minted only by the Romans and not by the Jews, reminded His countrymen that by using this coin they recognised in fact the loss of their own independence and the legitimacy of the Roman government in fact. Thus, in paying the tax they would be only obeying a lawful authority. But by adding, ‘render to God the things that are God’s,’ Jesus safeguarded the rights of God and the consciences of men.

Moreover, the reply of Jesus maintained intact His own claims. By refusing to counsel rebellion against Rome, Jesus showed once again that He had no desire to become a political Messias and no intention of allowing His own people to cast Him in that role. By insisting on the rights of God He showed that His kingdom was of the spiritual order. Thus, in a few simple gestures and a few simple words Jesus both escaped the snare laid for Him by His enemies and reaffirmed His own Messianic claim.

PHARISEES, SADDUCEES AND THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

On this same day some of the Sadducees came to question Jesus on the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, but the Sadducees did not. No doubt the point had often been debated between the two parties. They recalled to Jesus the old Levirate Law of Moses. According to this law, if a married man died before he had begotten a son, then it was the duty of his brother to marry the widow and beget by her a son who would be considered the son of her first husband. In this way the family of the first brother would be continued in history. Now suppose, they said to Jesus, a woman, in accordance with this law, married seven brothers in turn, begetting a son by none of them. When they all rise from death, whose wife shall she be?

THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER OF THE RESURRECTION

Jesus told them that they were wrong in denying the resurrection of the dead. They were wrong because they had not sufficient faith in the power of God; they were wrong because they were ignorant of their own Scriptures, and they were wrong because their view of the resurrection was too worldly, they did not understand the spiritual and supernatural character of the resurrection.

‘You err because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For at the resurrection they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven. But, as to the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living’ (Matthew 22:29-32).

‘THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT IS LOVE’

This setback to the Sadducees led one of the Pharisees to ask Jesus again which was the greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus replied, as He had already done previously, that the commandment of love was the greatest commandment in the Law. But then He seized the opportunity to question the Pharisees on the identity of the Messias.

‘Whose son is he?’ He asked them. They said to Him, ‘David’s.’ He then asked them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thy enemies the footstool of thy feet’? If David, therefore, calls him ‘Lord,’ how is he his son?’ (Matthew 22:42-45).

MEN SHOULD NOT SEEK TITLES FOR TITLES’ SAKE, BUT ONLY STRICTLY IN CONNECTION WITH GOD, THE ULTIMATE FATHER, AND CHRIST, THE ULTIMATE MASTER

Jesus was trying to make them realise that the Christ, the Messias, even though He be a son of David, was yet something more, a Being whom David would call Lord, a Lord Who would sit at the right hand of God. He was using the Sacred Scriptures of the Jews to confirm His own claim to be both Messias and Son of God. But the Pharisees refused to admit this and so they were unable to answer Him.

The silence of the Pharisees induced Jesus to warn the people against the Scribes and the Pharisees. When the Scribes and Pharisees teach you the Law of Moses, He told them, do what they tell you. But do not follow the example of their actions, for they do not observe what they preach to others. Their own good works they do only to be esteemed in the eyes of men, for they love to receive from men the titles of Master and Father. There is only one Father, God in heaven, and only one Master, the Christ. Men should not seek these titles for their own sakes, but should acknowledge that the perfection which leads to these titles is the gift of God Who alone is truly Master and Father.

A STRONG WARNING AGAINST THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

After this warning to the people Jesus castigated the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They were willing to make great sacrifices to convert one man to their religious beliefs, but they destroyed their own efforts by making their converts as bad as themselves. They evaded the harsh law they preached and confused the people by their theological subtleties. They professed great admiration for the prophets of the past and boasted that they would not have killed them as their forefathers had done. But Jesus Himself would send His Apostles to them and they would resist them even unto blood, as their forefathers had resisted the prophets.

JESUS TRIED TO PREVENT THEM FROM FALLING UNDER THE CONDEMNATION OF DIVINE JUSTICE

Now this strong warning to the people against the Scribes and the Pharisees and this terrible denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees were not due to any personal pique on the part of Jesus. The hour of decision for the Chosen People was at hand. They had to accept Jesus or reject Him as their Messias, as the very Son of God.

THE HOUR OF DECISION FOR THE CHOSEN PEOPLE WAS AT HAND

What their history might have been had they accepted Him we do not know. How glorious it might have been, how peacefully triumphant might have been the growth of the Kingdom of God from Jerusalem, from the Chosen People to the other nations of the world, we cannot tell. Misled by their elders, by the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, they were to reject Jesus the Christ. Jesus, knowing that the elders of the people will mislead them, in denouncing the Pharisees made one last effort to draw the people to Himself and prevent them from falling under the condemnation of divine justice.

THEY HAD TO ACCEPT JESUS AS THE SAVIOUR TO BE SAVED, TO DO WHAT HE TOLD THEM, BUT THEY REJECTED HIM AS THE MESSIAH

In sorrow Jesus addresses Jerusalem itself, the symbol of Judaism, the ancient capital of Israel, the centre of the worship of the one true God,

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou who killest the prophets, and stonest those who are sent to thee! How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but thou wouldst not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth until you shall say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).

WITH THESE WORDS JESUS ENDS HIS PUBLIC PREACHING

Knowing that Jerusalem will reject Him, Jesus reminds her that she has always rejected the prophets. Now she is about to reject Him, even though His desire has always been to save her and her children. Because she will reject Him, she will be left desolate. Divine judgement is already passed upon her. But the heart of Jesus is not filled with despair for Jerusalem. Now, at this fateful moment, she will reject Him. But, at some undetermined time in the future, she will accept Him and cry out, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

With these sorrowful words (only slightly lightened by a small word of hope) Jesus ends His public preaching. From this time on, His teaching is reserved for His faithful followers.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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1st SEPTEMBER, GOSPEL READING (LUKE 14:1, 7-14)

On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour.

He said this, “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you may come and say, ‘Give up your place to this man.’ And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, ‘My friend, move up higher.’ In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then he said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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30th JULY, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 13:36-43)

JUST AS THE DARNEL IS GATHERED UP AND BURNT IN THE FIRE, SO IT WILL BE AT THE END OF TIME.

Leaving the crowds, Jesus went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, “Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.”

He said in reply, “The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time.

The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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27th JULY, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 13:24-30)

LET THEM BOTH GROW TILL THE HARVEST.

Jesus put a parable before the crowds, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well.

The owner’s servants went to him and said, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?’ ‘Some enemy has done this,’ he answered. And the servants said, ‘Do you want us to go and weed it out?’

But he said, ‘No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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26th JULY, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 13:18-23)

THE MAN WHO HEARS THE WORD AND UNDERSTANDS IT, HE IS THE ONE WHO YIELDS A HARVEST.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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24th JULY, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 13:1-9)

IT PRODUCED CROP A HUNDREDFOLD.

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, “Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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