The False Mirror, Rene Magritte, 1928

Translation From the Holy Gospel According to Matthew

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples, “When you see the abominable and destructive thing which the prophet Daniel foretold standing upon holy ground,” (the reader will take note) “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. If a man is on the roof of the terrace, he must not go down to get anything out of his house. If a man is in the field, he may not turn back to pick up his cloak. Unhappy the women who are pregnant or nursing their children at that period. Keep praying that you will not have to flee in the winter or on a Sabbath, for then there will be great distress surpassing any since the beginning of the world until now, or any that is to come. Indeed, if that period had not been shortened, not a human being would have been saved. However, for the sake of the chosen, that period will be shortened. Then if anyone tells you, “Look, here is the Messiah,” or there he is, don’t believe it, false messiahs and false prophets will appear displaying such great signs and wonders as to mislead, were that possible, even the chosen. Remember, I have foretold this to you. So if they tell you, “Look, he is in the desert,” don’t go out there, or, “Look, he is hidden in the house,” don’t believe it. Just as lightning from the east flashes clear to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. It is where the dead body lies that the eagles will gather. Immediately after the distress of that period, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shed her light, and the stars will fall out of the sky. The hosts of heaven will be shaken loose, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, while all the clans of earth will strike their breasts when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. He will dispatch his angels with a mighty trumpet blast, and they will assemble his chosen from the four winds, from one horizon to the other.

Learn a lesson from the example of the fig tree. Once his branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you realize that summer is near. Likewise, when you see all these things, you will realize that he is near, standing at your door. I assure you, the men of today will not pass away before all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away. My words will never pass away.

The saving words of the Gospel.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Transcription of Homily

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church gives us this unsettling Gospel in which Our Lord refers to Daniel Chapter 12; this desolating sacrilege, this abomination of desolation – there are different translations – in the French translation it’s the desolating of the abominable desolator, in other words, it gives a kind of a personification. This is referring to what’s in Daniel, the שִׁקּוּץ שֹׁמֵם (šiqqûṣ šāmēm), and it’s this horrible idolatrous image that is set up in the Temple that was in the second century before Christ because of the infidelity of the Jews.

The Presence of God left the Temple, and there was the statue of Zeus setup and other idolatrous statues. And then, there was the reclaiming of the Temple, the purification of the Temple. But then the Jews were unfaithful again and what happens? Well, the Romans come, they claim the Temple, and they set up their own idols. And the Presence of God in that pre-Incarnational form left the Temple. The desolation, the word is βδελυγμα της ερεμωσεος (bdelygma tes eremoseos) so this word in Greek is actually onomonpedic and it’s a βδελυγμα it has to do with nauseating sickness. It’s an onomonpedic word, and it has to do with nausea and all sorts of gaseous occurrences and sickness, and basically, that type of response is the only proper response to an idol set up in God’s House rather than incense.

Well, Christ is speaking in these terms that Daniel gives us in Chapter 12 of his book, but He’s not referring to the past, and he’s not referring to the immediate future merely of what the Romans will do, rather he’s referring to the end of history, and that these horrors that are to come have no precedent. Anything that humanity has undergone before is going to be nothing like those horrors that are to come, and nonetheless, the horrors that are to come are nothing compared to the glory of Our Lord that will be revealed on its heels And in that eschaton, the coming of Christ, the initial questions about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth will leave no doubt: He is the Holy One of God who dwells in the bosom of the Father and He is the visible Image of the invisible God. And so, we’ve got this juxtaposition of these idols set up in the House of God and the true God who has been made flesh, who dwells amongst us, and has a radical presence amongst us in Mass, in Adoration, through the Life of Grace.

And far worse than any crude statue like a pachamama set up in the Vatican, or some idol set up in a Church, far worse and more insidious than that is the Antichrist that Our Lord is foretelling, who will, under the guise of Gospel, will use Christ-like language but emptied of meaning, undermining the substance of the Gospel with a false gospel. And so, the real danger that Our Lord is alluding to is that the Antichrist will come with this polymorphous perversity constantly taking on new forms to draw souls away from the Truth. And nonetheless, a remnant will remain faithful.

And so, we’ve got these idiotic false idols and then we’ve got this false messenger. He warns us, later, that there will be many false prophets, imposters coming in His name, who will indeed carry out certain wonders and signs. And Our Lord expresses concern for his elect that they not be fooled by these false prophets. And the apotheosis of the Antichrist will take place within the Church, betraying her own children, and fulfilling the prophecy, Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. He is talking about the life of grace being driven out from souls who embrace sin as if it were virtue.

In John’s Letter, his First Letter, in Chapter 2 and Chapter 4 he refers to the Antichrist, and what can we say about the Antichrist? There are a couple of qualities of his teaching. Number one, he denies the Trinity, he denies the Incarnation, and he denies the Parousia. And so, the Antichrist will undermine the very substance of our Faith while seeming to affirm it.

If you’re familiar with Luca Signorelli’s fresco in Orvieto… I recommend you look it up if you’re not in the neighborhood of Orvieto in the next week. Look it up online and look at the frescoes by Luca Signorelli. It’s called The Tales of the Antichrist. and you’ll see how in this fresco, in the cathedral there, demons surround a church, they’re inside the church. You see martyrs being slain. You see a woman selling herself. There is a huddled group of priests and religious who are praying faithfully and, therefore, persevering through prayer. And then, in the center, you see this figure that looks like Christ. And he’s not looking out at the others. You could tell that he’s pensive. And right behind him is Satan, who is whispering into his ear. And Satan has put his arm in the cloak of the Antichrist. And it’s done in such an ingenious way by this painter. You can’t tell whose hand it is. Is it Satan’s hand or is it this Christ-like figure who’s actually the Antichrist? And he’s whispering some message into the Antichrist’s ear. And this is what Our Lord is talking about; some seducer who would seek to separate us from Christ with a false gospel.

Well, this Gospel of today ends with the end, with Our Lord coming in triumph and glory, coming to claim His own. And we’ll see that whatever trials the Bride of Christ has endured, whatever crosses we had to bear, all of them will be our glory. All of them are joined to His passion and made sanctifying. God will reveal Himself to be the all-in-all. And He will claim everything. In the Book of Revelations, we see the Lamb in the midst of the throne who is also a shepherd. So, the Lamb is a shepherd who guides us to springs of living water, and there it says that God will wipe away every tear.

In St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he lets us know the mystery of the purpose of Our Lord; according to His good pleasure, which He determined beforehand in Christ, for Him to act upon when the times had run their course to bring everything under the headship of Christ. We see in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, everything was created in Christ, everything was created through Christ, everything was created for Christ. When we remember that truth, it helps us to not compartmentalize things in our own spiritual lives.

Sometimes we can think that our work doesn’t allow us time to pray. My duties at home don’t give me the time that I would like for time with Christ, and nonetheless, those things, they’re part of God’s will. They’re not at odds with our spiritual life. We have to let Christ in our spiritual life absorb those things and claim them as goods so that our work is sanctifying. Our chores give Him glory, our social life, our relationships, the things we read, the things we do. When they’re given to Him intentionally, He claims it and He makes it sanctifying for us. And this brings about a certain cohesion and integrity in our spiritual life that doesn’t allow fissures. And this is the ultimate act of creation.

God’s part is known in this, in theology, is known as the ανακεφαλαιώσεις (anakephalaiosis). It’s the verb for bringing all things under the headship of Christ. When we cooperate with that process, when we do it willfully, Our Lord helps us to detach from those things that would otherwise have a hold on our hearts and then as meritorious because we’re giving it to Him. Rather than at the end of the time when we lose all of these possessions, when we give it to them beforehand and say, “This is yours, Lord. I do it for you. I do it to your glory,” then all of a sudden, they’re not at odds with our relationship with Him and they become something very pleasing to Him. And it brings a lot of peace of soul when we live this way.

And so, with this knowledge that Our Lord supports us, that He awaits us, He’s with us, but He’s also dwelling within us, in as much as we’re in a state of grace, we can boldly face whatever is to come with the knowledge that Christ, the universal King, is so close at hand. He’s so close that sometimes we kind of forget about Him. He dwells within us. But when we’re reminded through reading such as this, it gives us new vigor. It gives us courage. It gives us trust to face whatever trials may come because we know that Christ is King and Christ rules. Christ reigns and we are His. 

In the Name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen.

— Fr. Ermatinger