After this I 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."
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."
While Mark 13 combines the prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem with that about the end of the world, Luke separates these two events. Writing after the Holy City had fallen to the Romans, Luke saw that its destruction did not usher in the final age of the world and the second coming of the Son of Man. His re-statement of Jesus' words speaks to our own existence, in the time before the final age of the world.
Such moments, according to Revelation, will avenge the blood of God's servants. False joys will be unmasked; futile waste of energy trying to build flimsy securities will be brought to an end; all the buying and selling of world merchants will stop. The ultimate shape of the future always rests in God's hands, and in the end God achieves the victory beyond all human endeavour.
Today's gospel has a very dark and sombre tone. Jesus speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem and the terrible consequences for all who are living there. He goes on to speak of great disturbances in the cosmos that will bring fear to people everywhere. Yet, just when all is at its darkest, Jesus declares that the Son of Man will appear in all his power and glory bringing redemption, liberation, to all who welcome his coming. There are times in our lives when our own world can appear to be falling apart. Disturbing events happen over which we have little or no control; we can be left shaken and frightened. today's gospelis reminding us that it is above all in such moments when we are most aware of our vulnerability and frailty that the Lord is closest to us. He stands by us in his risen power, giving us strength in our weakness. His presence has the power to liberate us from our fears and to give us the confidence to stand erect with our heads held high, in the words of the gospel. We can be tempted to let the darkness envelope us. We need to resist that temptation because the light of the Lord's presence shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.