Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The End Times?

Here's another post from the desk of Deacon Dave Wells... posted under my name while he learns to post on his own :)

The year is quickly coming to a close. Now, don’t run out and buy your noise makers, balloons, or champagne just yet, because the year I’m talking about is the liturgical year. The Church’s year begins with Advent and ends with the feast of Christ the King, which we celebrated this past Sunday. As we get towards the end of the year, the Sunday readings appropriately reflect the end times. They remind us that we are on a journey, that our ultimate goal is heaven, and that Christ will come again at the end of time.

In the second to last line in the whole Bible, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus promises, “Yes, I am coming soon.” The author of Revelation then responds, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Those should be our thoughts and words as well: “Amen, come Lord Jesus!”

A question that we might have is “What exactly is going to happen when he does come?” It’s important to follow the teaching of the Church here for two reasons. One reason is that the end hasn’t come yet, so this drives people to speculate, guess. I haven’t seen the movie, 2012, which came out this past weekend, but rest assured that the producers didn’t study Church teaching before producing it. I haven’t heard anything about the movie yet, but for as entertaining as it may be, it is probably fraught with errors. The second reason why we have to be careful is because what has been revealed to us about the end times is very symbolic. The language associated with the end times is called apocalyptic language. We see it today both in the first reading and in the Gospel. We don’t read apocalyptic language as we read Sports Illustrated or a science text book, but we realize it’s very symbolic language and we must interpret it in line with how the Church has always read it.

That being said, what do we know about the end times? Christ’s second coming will follow a period of great persecution for the Church. We see this in today’s first reading and Gospel. Many believers will have their faith shaken as the evil one futilely attempts a last gasp effort at defeating Christ’s Kingdom. Following this final trial, Christ will come again in glory at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. Christ says as much in today’s Gospel: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory.” All of those who died before this time will receive their resurrected bodies, and those still living and those who have resurrected will either be punished for their sins by going body and soul into hell or rewarded for their faithfulness by going body and soul into heaven. This event won’t just affect us, but all of creation. We read in today’s Gospel, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky.” This language, which we don’t necessarily read literally, does show that the end times will be a cosmic event. Christ will bring about a new heavens and a new earth, as Scripture relates. The universe will be transformed in a way unimaginable to us. This is what the Church teaches about the end times, which we must be prepared for always. There will be great persecution of the Church, followed by Christ’s coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, who will receive their resurrected bodies at this point; and, finally, his second coming will be a cosmic event, affecting all of the created universe.

“Good” you may say but, “Why hasn’t Christ come back yet?” “What’s taking so long for him to come in glory?” we might ask. One response is found in St. Peter’s second letter, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” It has been two thousand years since Christ ascended into heaven. In the grand scheme of things, two thousand years are a blink of the eye in a universe that’s billions of years old; and even less than a blink of the eye when considered from God’s perspective from eternity.

To think about this question from another way, imagine if Christ returned in glory five years ago. The world would have ended five years ago. That means that some of my youngest nieces and nephews or your sons or daughters or grandchildren wouldn’t have been born and hence, they wouldn’t have existed, much less been saved by Christ. With each passing day, new members are added to the human race, and these are people that God has willed to exist from all eternity and to be with him for all eternity. God doesn’t benefit from the passage of time before he comes in glory, because he’s already perfect; rather, we benefit because more people are brought to salvation every day. The end times won’t come until all the people God desires to save—and he desires to save all of us—have lived on earth.

Connected with this previous point, I have a third answer to our question about why Christ seems to delay in returning. It’s really an act of mercy on God’s part that he hasn’t come yet. An analogy might be helpful to explain this. As a kid, I hated getting up for school. My mom had to yell at me to get up about six or seven times a morning. Finally, I’d tumble out of bed, and take my good ol’ time in getting ready. I recall with nightmarish memories my mom sometimes yelling, “The carpool’s here to pick you up! I hope you’re ready!” And, of course, I wasn’t ready—homework wasn’t done, or teeth weren’t brushed, or one shoe was nowhere to be found. But guess what? It was too late. I couldn’t do anything more, or stall more; it was simply time to go. When Jesus comes suddenly at the end of time, it’s time to go. As the Gospel says, “He will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds.” Each day that Christ doesn’t come gives us another chance to grow in holiness. We have another day to improve a little more, to be a little bit nicer, to love God a little more sincerely. After Christ comes, there isn’t any chance to improve or amend our ways. So each day that Christ delays his return is a chance to grow a little bit holier so that we might be all the more fulfilled and joyful in heaven.

In answer to the question, “Why hasn’t Christ returned yet?” because one day for God is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day; he hasn’t come because all the people he desires to save have not been saved yet; and also, each day he doesn’t come is an act of mercy for us, because it gives us a chance to improve and love God more.

Christ has accomplished his mission. God became a man, died to save us, resurrected from the dead, and ascended into heaven. The only thing that remains is for him to come again in glory. Our attitude should not be one of fear as long as we stay close to the Church and truly love God. God loves us and desires our salvation. Our attitude should be like that of the author of Revelation, who said, “Amen, come Lord Jesus!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Deacon Wells,
Thanks for making me realize how much of my life has been spent "takin' my good ol' time" doing what God wants, not what I want.

Yikes! I better get up, get moving and get right.