[Jesus said:] “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Let me begin this reflection by asking you a question. If you knew that something terrible would happen in the future, what would you do with the knowledge? If, for instance, you knew that a famine was imminent, or if you knew a typhoon of great magnitude was going to hit your city, or if you knew that a tsunami was going to wash over your town, what would you do? Either stock up or sell off, right? We would be very foolish not to take the necessary action when we know something terrible will happen.
In today's passage, Jesus is giving his disciples a glimpse into the future, which isn't a pleasant picture. He describes wars, insurrections, famines, plagues, and other terrifying stuff that was going to take place. One can imagine the wheels turning in his disciple's heads as they wonder how to prepare for this when Jesus shocks them even more. "But before all this occurs," he tells them, "they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name" (Luke 21:12). Wow! How do they prepare for this?!
Jesus tells them not to worry! He would help them. How? Through the Holy Spirit whom the Father would send in his name (see John 14:16). Not only would the Holy Spirit give them the words they needed to defend themselves (see Matthew 10:20), he would teach them all they needed to know (see John 14:26). What they needed to do was to always be on the watch and pray that they may be able to stand before the Son of Man when he returned (see Luke 21:36). "Stand firm," Jesus said, "and you will win life" (Luke 21:19).
His words of advice to them are also words of advice to us. If we are sensible enough to safeguard ourselves against natural disasters, we should show similar wisdom in preparing ourselves for a disaster of greater magnitude, should we not? The actual disaster isn't what Jesus describes here; it is what follows that. There is going to be a Judgement Day. As I've said before, we may not see the end of the world in our lifetime. Generations to follow may not see it, although we are very close to the end. But the world ends for us when we end, no? When we die, it's "Game Over."
The only question that then remains is: did we win life?
May the Spirit be with you.