This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Revelation 14:14-19
14 Now in my vision I saw a white cloud and, sitting on it, one like a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
15 Then another angel came out of the sanctuary and shouted at the top of his voice to the one sitting on the cloud, ‘Ply your sickle and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.’
16 Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth, and the harvest of earth was reaped. 17 Another angel, who also carried a sharp sickle, came out of the temple in heaven, 18 and the angel in charge of the fire left the altar and shouted at the top of his voice to the one with the sharp sickle, ‘Put your sickle in, and harvest the bunches from the vine of the earth; all its grapes are ripe.’
19 So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger.
This imagery comes from putting together the numerous parables of God’s harvest, the image of Israel as the Vine and the image of God “treading the winepress” in anger, from Isaiah 63:3. The Son of Man, that is, Jesus with his people, has the royal prerogative of starting the harvest. The image of God as an almost frenzied treader of grapes, is disturbing. They remind us of the strange phrase, “the wrath of the Lamb”, which however helps our understanding, as the Lamb does nothing violent. The Lamb’s wrath is its passionate suffering of others’ violence. The wrath in which evildoers are immersed is their own. The wrath of God and the Lamb is that they will not force anyone to abandon their anger, cruelty and violence. Those who want these experiences will be left with them; they will become their own victims. The violence with which the grapes are trodden is the violence of cruel and unjust people. Our warning to such people is not made in the name of One more powerfully cruel than they are, but of One whose love will not allow him to enforce a rescue from their own cruelty.
Gospel, Luke 21:5-11
5 When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, he said, 6 ‘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.’
7 And they put to him this question, ‘Master,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that it is about to take place?’
8 But he said, ‘Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name and saying, “I am the one” and “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. 9 And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be terrified, for this is something that must happen first, but the end will not come at once.’ 10 Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places; there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven.
Jesus teaches that there will be a day of God’s justice: that hope is an essential part of our faithful endurance inn the world. Unjust powers that appear unassailable like the Temple in Jerusalem may crumble sooner than we expect. But we must not mistake earthly turmoil for heavenly judgment, nor give a hearing to those who specialise in naming the day. Nutters there will always be; religious crazies will abound; our job is to bear patient witness to the God who was, and is, and is to come.