I, John, saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendour. He called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.
Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "With such violence Babylon the great city will be thrown down, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists an trumpeters will be heard in you no more; and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more; and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more; and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more; for your merchants were the magnates of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants." Once more they said, "Hallelujah! The smoke goes up from her forever and ever."
And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are true words of God."
Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing for joy. (R./)
Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the sheep of his flock. (R./)
Go within his gates, giving thanks.
Enter his courts with songs of praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name. (R./)
Indeed, how good is the Lord,
eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples: "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
An earlier version of Jesus' predictions about the end of history (Mark 13:14-27) combines the prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem with that about the end of the world. But quite deliberately, Saint Luke separates these two events. Writing after the Holy City had fallen to the Romans and been totally ruined, Luke and his readers that the city's destruction did not usher in the final age of the world, as many expected. St. Luke's re-framing of Jesus' words allows for an indefinite period of history before the final coming of the Son of Man.
When he comes, according to Revelation, his judgments will be true and just, and will avenge the blood of God's servants. False joys will be unmasked; futile waste of energy and flimsy securities will be swept aside and all the buying and selling and commerce of this world will stop. The shape of the future is in God's hands, and ultimately justice and truth will prevail.
Today's gospel is dark and sombre. It predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, with awful consequences for its inhabitants. It speaks of mighty disturbances in the cosmos that will terrify people everywhere. Yet, just when all is at its darkest, the Son of Man will appear in power and glory bringing redemption, liberation, to all who trust in him.
There are times when things feel so dire that we resonate to the sombre words of W. B. Yeats, "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold." Public disorder, criminal behaviour, personal illness, things over which we have little or no control, can leave us deeply shaken. But in those crises when we are most aware of our frailty the Lord is always near. Our risen saviour gives strength in our weakness. He can dissolve our fears and stiffen our resolve to "stand erect with heads held high." Whenever darkness seems over us we need to hang on tightly, for the light of God shines on and the darkness will not overcome it.
Remember the great beatitude in the Apocalypse: "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."