Anyone who has visited ancient cities such as Jerusalem, Babylon, Rome, Athens, Sparta, Memphis and Thebes, is shocked at how immense and beautiful these ancient cities must have looked in the prime of their days. I have been blessed to visit Rome, Jerusalem, and Memphis – which is not too far away from modern day Cairo. I was shocked looking at the gigantic archeological sites and how big the buildings must have been.
Today in the gospel we hear the disciples in ancient Jerusalem marveling at the scale and the beauty of the massive constructions in Jerusalem, especially the Temple. Jesus tells them that “The days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Some day they will all lie in ruins.
Sure enough, that is what has happened to some of these ancient cities that were a marvel in their prime. They lie in ruins, and merely serve as archeological sites. It is this somber insight of long-gone civilizations that inspired the English poet, Percy Shelley, to write his famous sonnet – “Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!”
In the poem, a powerful Egyptian ruler made a huge statue of himself and erected it on a high pedestal. On the pedestal, the ruler put a plaque that read, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!”
When the poet wrote the poem, the statue had long fallen from the pedestal. The head of the statue was disconnected from the main trunk, the different pieces were laying on the ground in the desert. The plaque was still stuck on the pedestal, but the statute was in pieces on the ground. The poem ironically dramatizes the life of this great “King of Kings” who invited the mighty of the world to come and behold his power, yet now he lay on the floor, head disconnected from the trunk.
The main lesson we have in our gospel is that a lot of things that people celebrate or value are transient, and only last for a short time. The Lord warns us not to be misled by much of the earthly glamour that we sometimes care so much about. He warns us that all of that will pass. However, what will last forever is His word. What will last forever are the values He has taught us. St. John of the Cross famously observed that in the evening of our lives, we will simply be judged by how much we loved, by how much we served, by how much we cared for others. All the earthly glamour won’t mean anything at the end of time.
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About Father Fred Jenga, C.S.C.
Father Fred Jenga, C.S.C. is the President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. Father Fred, a native of Uganda, has multiple degrees including theology, philosophy, and communications. His native language is Lusoga and he speaks English, Luganda, Kiswahili, and Rutooro. He has been a teacher, researcher, author and family minister. Father Fred is committed to helping build God’s masterpiece one family at a time.