St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 310)
According to the Legend of St. Catherine, this young woman converted to Christianity after receiving a vision. At the age of 18, she debated 50 pagan philosophers. Amazed at her wisdom and debating skills, they became Christians—as did about 200 soldiers and members of the emperor’s family. All of them were martyred. Sentenced to be executed on a spiked wheel, Catherine touched the wheel and it shattered. She was beheaded. Centuries later, angels are said to have carried the body of St. Catherine to a monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Devotion to her spread as a result of the Crusades. She was invoked as the patroness of students, teachers, librarians and lawyers. Catherine is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, venerated especially in Germany and Hungary.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke(21.20-28)
Jesus said, When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Christ our hope
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
It is generally recognized that many passages of the Gospels consist of “sayings” of our Lord - statements of his that are strung together and situated in certain contexts. The present passage would seem to be an example of this. The context is our Lord speaking in the Temple, in the course of which he gives his prophecy that it will be destroyed. When would this happen? some had asked. Our Lord did not choose to answer the question as to the date, but foretold that the magnificent Temple would be attacked by armies and destroyed. That is to say, it would be a repetition of what had happened in the past. Jerusalem will be “surrounded by armies.” There will be “desolation” and “great distress in the land and wrath against this people.” Inhabitants “will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” In the event, all of this occurred and with a vengeance. Did it have a meaning, or was it just the way things happened to turn out? It was, of course, an historical event, the causes of which could be traced in the processes of history. But it did have a higher meaning. Our Lord says that “this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written.” The cataclysm was allowed as a judgment of God on sin, and was part of the fulfilment of prophecy. Now, there is this too. The destruction of Jerusalem some decades after the death and resurrection of Christ was an event not only with meaning in itself, but is a grand lesson that holiness and sin have historical results. Man’s moral life affects the course of history, which lies in the hands of God who is the moral Ruler and Judge of all. One of the points that Pope Benedict made in his Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate, is that the morality of decisions affects the world economy for good or ill as the case may be. We are reminded by our Gospel today that man is not just the lord of the manor. He is subject to moral law, and if that law is disregarded, history will be subject to a judgment.
While the destruction of Jerusalem is a reminder, to anyone of any age, of the presence in history of the divine judgment, it is also an indicator of what will come at the end. So it is that our Lord’s piercing and prophetic vision goes beyond the fall of the city to what we might call the fall of the world. “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Our Lord tells his listeners that this world will pass away. The world shares in the fallen character of man, and so it bears death within its lungs. Of itself it cannot last forever. Just as the city will suffer its cataclysm, so too will the world. But for those who have striven to be obedient to God, there is a great hope at hand. They may look ahead with confidence, for the world has not been left by God in its own inadequacy and sin. “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:20-28). The city will fall, and the world will come to its end, but there is a great Rock upon which every man and woman may take a secure stand. That Rock is Jesus Christ who suffered and died, and who now abides with us in his body the Church. He is the Beginning and the End, and in living in union with him by faith and baptism we live in an ultimate security. Whatever may happen to us, in the final analysis we shall come to no harm. He is with us now, and he will be “coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” He will come to bring redemption. Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel passage speak of the presence and results of sin in God’s chosen people and in the entire world. But they also speak of what God has done about this. He has come and, in Jesus his Son, has saved his people from their sins.
Our Lord’s words begin on a profoundly sombre note, and they end with a ringing note of hope. Whatever situation you are in, be faithful to the end! Stay close to me and walk in my footsteps. No matter what life may bring, place your trust in me, and at the end your trust will be vindicated. I shall come, and your redemption will be near at hand. The Christian faith and vision is one of profound optimism, based on a certain fact. That fact is the person of Jesus Christ. On him does everything depend, and in clinging to him we shall be secure and strong, both now and hereafter.