Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
When Jesus rose from the dead, he showed his disciples that even death will be overcome by God. In today’s Gospel, he expands that to include most of the bad things that can happen to both non-believers and disciples alike.
Starting with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus mentions most of the scary things that people thought would bring the end of the world. He gives two pieces of advice. First, don’t be fooled by anyone who says this is the end or who claims to be Jesus. When Jesus comes again, there will be no doubt about who it is. You won’t have to learn about it on the evening news. Then, don’t be terrified by natural disasters or wars. Wars, epidemics, earthquakes, and the rest happen throughout history and will happen again.
As disciples, we hope we would respond to disasters not with fear, but with love. Believers can voluntarily help those affected, comfort the survivors, or help rebuild their homes or schools. You may choose to give at a blood drive or donate to one of the charities that help disaster victims. People have welcomed strangers into their homes after a flood or hurricane has destroyed a neighborhood.
There is a saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Jesus never says that his disciples would be given awards for their acts of charity. In the second half of the Gospel, he says that his disciples would be persecuted, hated, and even betrayed by their own families. Jesus has advice for that situation, too. He presents it as an opportunity to give testimony, or witness, to our faith. His advice sounds strange at first. Unlike a modern lawyer, who practices with a witness before they go into the courtroom, Jesus tells us “not to prepare your defense,” but to let him give us the words. I suspect that he means not to worry about what you might say, lest you become scared speechless. If you let him, Jesus will “prepare” you with the scripture readings, your pastor’s homilies, and your own prayer life. All of these can help open us to the gifts of the Spirit, who helps us proclaim our faith without fear.