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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - The Shaking of Three Worlds

Robert Barron - The Shaking of Three Worlds

Robert Barron - The Shaking of Three Worlds
TOPICS: End times

Peace be with you. Friends, as we come toward the end of the liturgical year, we begin to look at more apocalyptic readings and writings in the Bible. End of the liturgical year, end of the world. As I've said though to you before, "apokalypsis" doesn't really mean end of the world so much as "unveiling," taking away the veil, revealing something. Now indeed, I'll bring these two ideas together. What's indeed revealed is the ending of the world in one sense, not so much the end of space time, but the breaking down of all the frames of reference that we use to understand our lives. Apocalypse is all about the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Once they knew that Jesus was risen from the dead, once they saw the risen Christ, they knew that the world they had known was shaken to its foundations. They knew the frames of reference they had always used were no longer valid. Something new had happened. And then we begin to hear these wonderful refrains throughout the Bible of God doing all things well, all things new, of a new heavens and a new earth. See that's what was revealed. That's the apocalypse. Well, our Gospel for today is taken from the section of Luke that's called "the little apocalypse". It's going to show the shaking of three worlds: the world of religion, the world of politics, and the world of nature. And I just want to walk through each of those one by one.

So first of all, let's look at religion. So the first followers of Jesus were Jews. For them, the Jewish religion, the religion of Israel, was everything. That was the final frame of reference. And there was nothing more important within Israelite religion than the Jerusalem temple. It was seen as almost literally the dwelling place of the God of Israel. All the tribes go up there to pray, to be united, to make sacrifice, to commune with God. The temple was everything. Well, what we hear now in the Gospel is Jesus and his disciples come to this temple.

Now, remember the time when you saw, maybe for the first time, one of the great monuments of the world. Maybe Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Eiffel Tower or St. Peter's in Rome, or some grand place that you had seen photos of, you had thought of, and suddenly you were there in the presence of this great monument. But now, give that monument complete and utter religious significance. So the temple of Jerusalem was undoubtedly the most beautiful thing these men, most of whom were kind of simple people from Galilee, which was a bit of a backwater even in Israel, it was the most beautiful thing they had ever seen, and more to it, they believed it to be the very dwelling place of God.

And so they exalt, they exalt how marvelous, how wonderful this is. What does Jesus say? "Yeah, it's great, isn't it"? No. What did he say? "All that you see here, the days will come when there will not be a stone left upon another that will not be thrown down". I mean, we hear these words like, "Oh yeah, that's what Jesus said in the Gospel," but put yourself in this position. You're one of these twelve, and you're in the presence of the most spectacular, beautiful, holy, important place that you can imagine. And your hero, your leader, doesn't share in your exaltation. He says that?

Maybe this will give you some idea of a pious Catholic standing in front of St. Peter's, maybe in the presence of his pastor or his bishop, and "Oh, how wonderful to be here. Look at this great place". And, "I tell you, not one stone will be left upon another". How shocking this must have been. And now, turn the heat up a little bit. Because if you go to the Gospel of John, what do you hear? Jesus declares himself to be the agent of the destruction of the temple. "I will tear this place down and in three days rebuild it". Well, what is going on? Can I suggest to everybody, what's going on here was a shaking of the foundations of the religion that Jesus' own followers took to be of ultimate concern? What shook those foundations finally?

It was the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When they saw the risen Christ, they realized the temple in Jerusalem was no longer the place where divinity and humanity came together. They realized that the institutions of their religion were not of ultimate concern, that now Jesus, in his risen body, is the place where divinity and humanity definitively come together. The risen Christ is now the place of instruction and healing and peace and reconciliation. The old way, even this highly sacred dimension of the old way, shakes and gives way to something new.

With this idea in mind, reread much of the Pauline literature. I mean the letters of St Paul. Paul, rabbi Saul, whose whole life was about the religion of classical Israel. And when he saw the risen Christ, he knew that that foundation, which was at one time everything for him, has now been shaken. Okay. What's the second great shaking that happens through the Resurrection of Jesus? Can I suggest it has to do with politics and the political order? Now go back to Jesus' time and his part of the world. Politically, the most fundamental reality was Rome. Power of Rome, the emperor of Rome, Rome's governors in various provinces.

That was the political establishment. When you wanted to signal your loyalty to Caesar, you would say to someone else, "kaiser kurios," Caesar is the Lord. And he'd respond to you, "kaiser kurios," Caesar is the Lord. It's under Roman authority, under the protection of Roman power, that we find our political stability. What happened to the first Christians when they experienced the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead? They knew that that frame of reference too was shaken. That it was no longer ultimate. That Caesar was not the one to whom their final allegiance was due.

Now, mind you, I'm not suggesting Jesus was a zealot or political revolutionary. He wasn't. He wasn't suggesting, "Let's have a new type of political order, and I'm going to be the king in the worldly sense". No, no, none of that. Nevertheless, the risen Jesus is indeed King in this fully spiritual and religious sense. He is the one to whom final allegiance is due. He is now the one in and by whom our lives are properly ordered.

Now, I've said this to you before: Can you see now why so many of the first Christians ended up in prison or dead? Because the Romans understood very well that when the first Christian said, "Iesous kurios," Jesus is Lord, they knew what that meant. They knew that was a challenge to the established political order. You see now why when Paul preached, often there were riots. We hear in the Acts of the Apostles that upon hearing the preaching of Paul, people said, "He's declaring a new king". Well, he was. Not in the worldly sense, but he was indeed saying, "Iesous kurios". Jesus is Lord.

Now see, how about for us, everybody? Well, all human beings across time and space have been interested in politics. And we too are fascinated by politics and this game of thrones and who's in power and who's out of power and so on. And fine as far as it goes. We need some kind of political order and structure. But that's not our ultimate concern. That's not the final frame of reference for our lives. No, no, no. It's Jesus, the Lord. Okay. So religion is shaken by the Resurrection. So is politics.

Here's a third one, and it comes through in all of the apocalyptic literature. There's usually reference in the apocalyptic literature to natural calamities and disasters. We hear of earthquakes and famines and plagues, and even the stars falling from the sky. Read the book of Revelation. Well, what's going on here but a shaking of nature itself? Go back to the ancient world now, and we speak of the Greek Roman gods and goddesses. I think more sophisticated people in the ancient world understood they were not so much literal figures as they were personifications of the natural necessities. Think of Neptune, the God of the sea.

Well, he stands for just this basic fact of the sea, which can be beautiful and by turns violent and disastrous. Zeus of the sky and so on. The gods and goddesses are expressive of this context of meaning that's given to us by nature. Everything passes, but nature itself remains. I'll date myself here, but some are old enough to remember that famous song by Kansas "Dust in the Wind", "All that lasts forever is the earth and sky". Well, that's a very ancient idea. We're all dust in the wind, we come and we go, but the earth and the sky and the sea and the basic elements of nature, the facts of life and death, that's what remains permanent. People today, think of various forms of the new age, will say that getting in touch with nature and these great facts of nature, that's what it's all about.

And then there's the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What's one of the basic natural necessities? Well, the fact of death. That all living things, including us, we die. And that's it. You live for a short period of time, you die, and then it's all over. And then that's a frame of reference for the whole of your life. But then Jesus rose from the dead, which means even that most basic natural necessity has now been shaken. And if death itself is shaken, well then the whole context of nature is shaken. There's a power, listen now, a power that's greater even than the natural necessities. And that's the power of the creator God, the God who in fact gave rise to nature.

God is not positioned by nature; nature is positioned by God. And the Resurrection of Jesus shows that nature itself is under his aegis, under his lordship. So don't orient your life the way a lot of new age people do today, in terms of the natural necessities. No, no, no. They're not ultimate. The God of Jesus Christ is ultimate. The old forms of religion are passing away. The old political order, that's broken and shaken. Christ is Lord. Even nature itself is shaken to its foundations by the Resurrection of Jesus. Can I suggest to everybody, this is what's being revealed in the Resurrection? This is the apocalypse, the unveiling that happens. And once you get that, your whole life can and should change. And God bless you.
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