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First Thought.—Why did our Lord prophesy the utter downfall of the material greatness of the old religion? It was because His people had rejected Him, and the life was gone out of all that which God Himself had once ordained for His honour and glory. The life having gone out of Judaism, its towers and pinnacles could not long stand.
The same thing is most true of all the amazing and often magnificent creations of men, even though they be designed wholly for God's glory and the welfare of mankind. If Christ be not in them, they are doomed; they cannot last. Sects and denominations may be founded by earnest men, may reckon their followers by millions, and carry on missionary work which is the admiration of the world. Nevertheless all such organizations, builded independently of the Church, and maintaining their existence outside her fold, must inevitably at last come to nought. We are ready to argue that there is an immense amount of good done by them, that they have splendid traditions of saintly deeds wrought in their midst, that they have brought thousands to salvation who otherwise had perished in their sins. Judaism might have said the same: nevertheless when any foundation of religion or benevolence fails to ally itself with Christ through His Church, its
days are numbered. There is a lesson for the individual soul as well. When the believer rejects Christ through failing to submit himself whole-heartedly to the ways of the Catholic religion, knowing that religion to be our Lord's, but finding things in it too hard to accept, all his goodness and devotion go for nought. In the day of judgment there shall not be left one stone upon another of his fair Christian life here, because he consciously rejected this article of faith, or that necessary practice of piety which the Church enjoined. We cannot be too heedful to submit ourselves absolutely to the way of the Catholic religion, which alone is of Christ. Happily for the individual there is always, so long as he lives, opportunity for repentance. The Jewish Church could not repent.
Second Thought. In the fate which our Lord foretold for the temple and the outward institutions of Judaism, there is a warning for the Christian Church also. Men are wont to estimate her greatness from a false standpoint. We dwell with pride upon the vastness of her dominion—counting among her earthly children hundreds of millions—her numberless stately buildings, her wealth, her successes. Surely, men say, this great power of the Church declares
her plainly to be of God. Yet in the days of Antichrist, all these great buildings, the outward pomp and magnificence of the Church shall be thrown down, and the millions who called her mother be reduced to the veriest remnant: nor could even that remnant be saved except the Lord in His pity had shortened the evil days. The Church endures in her Christlife only, not in her outward greatness.
The individual believer, priding himself upon the thoroughness of his Catholicity, may take warning also: Outward fidelity to the ordinances of religion does not of necessity imply a heart free from sin: the deadliest sin of all, pride, sometimes reigns in lives otherwise most spiritual. Which of us has not to admit that the words of holy Church which declare us miserable sinners are most true; and the greatest of saints ceased not to admit and to bewail their truth concerning himself, while he remained in the flesh. It is only as penitents, in sackcloth and ashes, that we can hope for acceptance at Christ's hands; and if indeed we be saved, it shall only be so as by fire.
Third Thought. It is not the will of our Master Christ that the old things which have served their purpose should be thrown down until He has erected for men something better
in their stead. The Christian Church rose fair and full of the Holy Ghost upon the ruins of Judaism. In the days of Antichrist the spiritual glory and indefectibility of the company of the elect shall be made evident in the downfall of the Church's worldly magnificence. God always has for His people some better thing than that which He takes from them.
The believer may well stand aghast at the thought of all the things the recording angel has had to write down against him. The remembrance of sins confessed in the past, the constant tale of guilt he has still to acknowledge in his frequent resort to the sacrament of Penance—these things weigh him down, and render him hopeless. He is not to forget that the same recording angel is daily writing down also the tale of the penitence, the faith, and the love which are being slowly, but surely acquired; that he is daily putting the tears of contrition which we shed into his bottle. Though the soul be broken down and utterly a failure in its own efforts after spiritual living, the Holy Ghost is raising up within it a rare temple whose foundation stones are purity of heart, unworldliness, humility, and a wonderful love of the Master.
“And as He sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled ? And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."-St. Mark xiii. 3-6.
Exposition.—Isaac Williams says: “Whenever the coming of the Great Day is spoken of, either by our Lord, or by His Apostles, the lesson founded on it is patience; and here our Lord's first caution is against impatience, a state of mind contrary to that of quiet watching and waiting for the salvation of God. It does not appear that either in the times preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, or since, there have been many literally claiming to be themselves the Christ, or who have set up avowedly to oppose Him. Yet St. John bears witness to its