Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, ‘You have had a vision, O king; this is what you saw: a statue, a great statue of extreme brightness, stood before you, terrible to see. The head of this statue was of fine gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron, part earthenware. While you were gazing, a stone broke away, untouched by any hand, and struck the statue, struck its feet of iron and earthenware and shattered them. And then, iron and earthenware, bronze, silver, gold all broke into small pieces as fine as chaff on the threshing-floor in summer. The wind blew them away, leaving not a trace behind. And the stone that had struck the statue grew into a great mountain, filling the whole earth. This was the dream; now we will explain to the king what it means.
‘You, O king, king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given sovereignty, power, strength and glory – the sons of men, the beasts of the field, the birds of heaven, wherever they live, he has entrusted to your rule, making you king of them all – you are the golden head. And after you another kingdom will rise, not so great as you, and then a third, of bronze, which will rule the whole world. There will be a fourth kingdom, hard as iron, as iron that shatters and crushes all. Like iron that breaks everything to pieces, it will crush and break all the earlier kingdoms. The feet you saw, part earthenware, part iron, are a kingdom which will be split in two, but which will retain something of the strength of iron, just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together. The feet were part iron, part earthenware: the kingdom will be partly strong and partly weak. And just as you saw the iron and the clay of the earthenware mixed together, so the two will be mixed together in the seed of man; but they will not hold together any more than iron will blend with earthenware. In the time of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever – just as you saw the stone untouched by hand break from the mountain and shatter iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold. The great God has shown the king what is to take place. The dream is true, the interpretation exact.’
When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’
‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’
“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”
As we look at what’s happening in the world today, we realise that many of the happenings spoken by Jesus in today’s gospel have been taking place over the centuries, such as horrific wars and natural catastrophes. In the northern hemisphere, November is autumn. The daylight starts growing shorter. Here it Singapore, we experience the much needed rainy season. At this dark time of year, the readings focus on the darker side of human experience. They speak of destruction, loss, conflict and deception.
We look at endings sometimes with joyful welcome, sometimes with trepidation and fear. Now that we are coming to the end of the Liturgical Year (Advent begins next Sunday) our gospels will be focusing on the end times. Jesus begins by foretelling the end of the temple in Jerusalem (destroyed in 70 A.D.) The beautiful structures took 50 years to build. They were much loved and awed by everyone. No one would have imagined that these could be destroyed. Even the finest buildings only last so long.
We too should not be too attached to structures or situations in our lives that do not last.
As I reflect on today’s readings, on a personal level, I am reminded of the passing of things in my life over the past 5 years. These were painful endings. But today’s readings remind us that we should not hold onto these painful events and let them destroy us. Seasons come and seasons go. And a new one arrives. We cannot bypass the natural progression of seasons, “ …for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Situations in life or things have to die before God can bring forth something new in our lives.
As I ponder more, I realise that God was there for me through these crises. Even when I didn’t feel His presence. There were also endings that God saw me through that brought me freedom and opened up new opportunities in life.
Instead, we are to rely on Jesus, who is greater than the Temple. When all else disappears, he endures, and with him, we too will live on in him.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Jesus, help us to remember that the future lies in your hands and nothing can destroy or hurt us if we remain true to you as Lord of our lives.
Thanksgiving: The readings from today until Advent are full of warnings about the end times. But we are not to be terrified, because God’s providence will see us through whatever evils may beset our world. Thank you, Lord Jesus!