St Ambrose reminds us that verses 25-26 provide us with a true sequence of prophecy, as well as a fresh cause of mystery, because the Jews will be led captive a second time to Babylon and Assyria. Those, throughout the world who have denied Christ will be captive. A hostile army will trmple visible Jerusalem as the sword kills Jews. All Judea will be put to the two-edged spiritual sword by the nations that do believe. There will be many different signs, and many will fall away from faith, and a cloud of unbelief will darken bright faith. When the vices of the flesh obstruct the heavenly light, the holy church will be unable to borrow the brightness of the divine light from the rays of Christ. In the persecutions, love of this life alone certainly very often shuts out the light of God.
But those who persevere, and who do not lose faith, they will be rewarded when he comes again Origen worns us against becoming weighed down by the cares of this life, and against drunkeness and dissipation. It will be easy to fail and to fall away, but these times are the times that test men, and we must follow his Law and hold to Him in love.
As we enter Advent, the Church directs us toward the end-times discourse of Christ. Many Christians are uncomfortable with this language, in part because of the abuse of these passages by those convinced that the ‘end is nigh’, and in part because it requires priests to explain how what is said here coheres with the increasingly popular preaching of the Gospel of Mercy. It may be a sign of poor catechesis that this should be so, because Mercy and Judgment go in tandem, and however much it may cause us discomfort, it is clear that individuals retain the right to reject Christ and his offer of salvation. This is a theme we have often touched on here, and rightly so, for it is the central tension of our own times. At the Second Vatican Council, St John XXIII talked about the Church using the tool of mercy more than that of severity, and in the context that was understandable, but it may be doubted that the Pope intended the Church to unbalance itself to the extent that parts of it have. So it is good to be reminded that there will be an and, and there will be a judgment.
As we go into Advent together, let us, brothers and sisters, pray for one another, and for all Christians who face persecution.