It seemed that all hope was lost. They knelt on a stairway while a troll was beating on the gate; the enemy was about to break in. When they did, they’d fight to the last warrior, then all they knew and cared for would be gone, history. It was a tense time, tense for everyone but Gandalf. Pippin noticed this said: “I didn’t think it would end this way.”
Gandalf replied, almost in disbelief: “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… then you see it!”
And Pippin asked: “What? Gandalf? See what?”
“White shores… and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.”
Pippin looked at him for a moment and thought. Then he said: “Well, that isn’t so bad.”
To which Gandalf replied: “No… no, it isn’t.”
That helped them a lot, even though the Rohirrim rode over the horizon in the nick of time and Aragorn came up with the Army of the Dead not long after that. The knowledge the journey wasn’t over gave them hope in a dark time, knowing that whatever happened, there was something good on the other side.
Jesus gives a pretty dire prophecy in the Gospel reading today, and the catastrophe He talks about directly happened about forty years after his Death and Resurrection. The Jews revolted against the Romans in the year 66, and after a long siege the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in the year 70, a catastrophe that changed everything Jesus’ audience knew of the world. After it happened, they remembered He said this: it was written about the time of the Temple’s destruction. But in addition to the prediction of death and destruction, there’s a message of hope. The hope is that there will be a better time to come, that God will take care of His People, that Christ would return and all would be well. The end of the world they knew wouldn’t be the end of them.
There are predictions of catastrophe today, and not just from the Presidential campaign. In my lifetime, the Cold War threatened to destroy us, a sword of Damocles suspended above us ready to strike, and even though we hoped and prayed that threat would go way, it was a huge surprise when it did. Our world changed dramatically for the worse on 9/11, and I doubt we can ever look at things the same since then, even though some of you were small children when it happened. In many ways, it never stops: the tragedy in Paris a couple of days ago was a shock when so many people going about their evening on a nice Friday evening were shot by killers who resented everything they stood for. It makes us wonder how secure our own world is around us, how fragile our way of life may be.
But even when the world changes dramatically, there is always Hope in Christ. Jesus is always with us, even when things seem hopeless in our lives, even when things seem hopeless in our world, and Jesus promises us a far green country under a swift sunrise. Jesus promises us there is better to come, both in this life and in the world to come when we will all be with Him forever. That promise comes to us through the Eucharist, through Christ’s offering of himself. Christ shows us where our hope is, where our future is, where our destiny is.
That destiny is a liberation for today. Because we know what our destination is, we can look at the bad news and not give in to despair. Because we know how the story will end, we can work to bring justice to the world now, help make peace on earth a reality, find ways to address hopeless situations with Hope. Christ’s presence today is our starting point, our assurance, our challenge, our road to the future. Because we have Hope, we know where we’re going, no cause we embrace in His name is ever lost.