In this situation the words of our Blessed Lord in today’s Holy Gospel about the Antichrist, the abomination of desolation, the arrival of false prophets and of times of great tribulation may cause some uncomfortable resonations within our hearts and minds. Are we approaching the end?
In his homily at matins this morning Saint Jerome explained that the abomination of desolation can be understood both as an idol set up in the Temple (such as the statue of Caesar placed in the Temple by Pontius Pilate) or indeed as the spreading of false dogma.
The Church in our day has seen all of this. It continues to do so. Liturgical rites which place man at the centre and displace God set up idols in the New Temple. Pagan idols have been welcomed into our churches – even the greatest of them. The perverse cacophony of disingenuous or dissenting teaching in respect of marriage and the family, the sanctity of life and the true nature of the God-given gift of human sexuality resounds where the challenge of the edifying harmony of true doctrine should be heard. The tribulations of our times, even within the Church herself, are real.
How are we to respond to this? By adopting the shrill panic of an apocalyptic mindset? No: we do not know if these are the end times or not. That knowledge is not ours to have (cf. Mt 25:13). Are we to renounce Christ and His Church because the Church has been disfigured and injured by shocking if not scandalous tribulations? No: as Our Lord teaches us in the Gospel: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Whatever comes, we must cling to Christ and His Truth in His Body that is the Church. Yes, at times and in certain places we may have to flee tribulations and have nothing further to do with false prophets and their insidious teaching. Yes, we must keep away from the worship of idols – in our churches as well as in the world. But in whatever suffering or difficulty the Church and the world faces we must never renounce Christ and His saving action in the liturgy and sacraments of His Church.
For no matter what transpires, “after the tribulation…the Son of man [will come] on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” For the grace of steadfast perseverance in these times, unto the end, and that we might be numbered amongst the elect on that day, let us entreat our Saviour at this altar this morning. +