Gospel: Lk 21:29-33
And Jesus added this comparison, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Some Christians are disturbed when they hear such statements of Jesus as the one we just heard in today’s gospel reading: “This generation will not pass away, until all this has happened.” We know that this is not literally true. Consequently, must we conclude that Jesus was wrong about the timing of the end of the world? And, if he was wrong about such an important thing, can he be trusted about anything else?
These are honest and quite logical questions—only if we take Jesus literally. But this would lead us into all kinds of difficulties. We can avoid these altogether by interpreting Jesus, not literally but literarily, namely by understanding the kind of literature Jesus was using. And what was that? The prophecy of doom, which needs to use the limited time frame of one generation in order to effectively move people into action. This type of literature is used nowadays by Marxists, the proponents of the Green Revolution, those who predict a nuclear Holocaust, the alarmists of Global Warming, etc. All use the time frame of a generation or so: a shorter time frame would only generate panic and a longer one would leave people indifferent.