By Michael Smith
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 21:20-28
20 “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; 22for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. 23Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; 24they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The “day of the Lord” is a familiar theme in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was prophesied as a day both dreadful and wonderful, equally terrifying and liberating. The notion of the Day of the Lord carries this dual response, because it is both a day of God’s wrath and judgment when evil will be defeated, as well as a time of God’s vindication and justice when all things will be put to rights. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus continues this double teaching by both warning and comforting us about the coming Day of the Lord.
There are times in life when our world seems to fall apart. Disease, death, betrayal, desperate loneliness, and financial insecurity may not cause us to literally flee to the mountains, but they can trigger a response that makes us want to run away in panic or immobilizes us in fear. Jesus is telling us beforehand that times like these will come and when they do, hang on, and be assured that these dreadful days will not have the last say.
“Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” Jesus says. In other words, when all hell breaks loose around you, stand your ground and hold your head high. Know that help is on the way!
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Shyira (Rwanda) and the Rt. Rev. Samuel M. Mugisha
Diocese of Edmonton (Canada) and the Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander
Church of the Holy Faith, Santa Fe, N.M.