Dear fellow pilgrims,
If you read/listen to the news on a daily basis – especially when tensions with North Korea were higher – follow what scientists are saying about the breadth and depth of impacts of global warming even in our lifetime, and, ok… maybe if you already have a tendency to worry about things… it’s easy to worry about the end of the world. Heck, there is even a Doomsday Clock that tells us how close the world is to a global catastrophe – i.e. how many minutes until midnight – a terrifying symbol controlled by a group of scientists. Right now, it’s at “two minutes until midnight”, the closest it’s ever been to midnight since 1953 (during the beginning of the Cold War).
I grew up in a non-denominational church where the pastor frequently talked about doomsday, and even preached to the children in the room (me) that we were probably going to be among those who would experience the “End Times.” Ok… and does anyone else remember those videos with Kirk Cameron about people disappearing up out of their clothes during the rapture? Those movies were fun reminders of the end of the world, too. My piano teacher even had brochures in her bathroom (that was otherwise decorated with fluffy pink things) about “reading the signs of the end times” that you could leisurely peruse while sitting on the toilet. I guess you could say that my Christian upbringing included a liiiittle bit over a “healthy dose” of eschatological awareness.
So, yeah, it’s easy to be scared of these potential catastrophes we can’t control. It’s also equally as easy to, in the face of being freaked out by the world, retreat to your distracting internet sites of choice and cover up the fear with mindless entertainment. The best way, however, involves facing these fears, no matter how realistic they are (because deciding that can be a whole other can of worms) and then surrendering them to God, proclaiming His victory and lordship over all things, and proclaiming your role as one of His rescued children.
Today, Jesus speaks of this intense anxiety and fear of the people during the end of the world to His disciples in the Gospel reading:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
But then, He also speaks of the end game and our role in it:
“And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.”
“Stand erect…”, do not cower in terror, children. “Raise your heads…”, have confidence enough to look directly at this terror and trust in the Lord more than competing voices tell you to fear. Why? Because “your redemption is at hand,” your salvation is imminent, your God is near.
It’s so easy to be afraid, my brothers and sisters. Way too easy. But no matter when the end of the world will be, and how we or however many generations ahead of us will be experiencing it, we know our faith, hope, and love in the Lord will be the anchor of all hearts in whatever turmoil is encountered. Because building the strength to endure worldly turmoil is not God’s ultimate purpose for our lives, but rather, our redemption, which is the ultimate manifestation of His glory. Our goal is not to just hang on when things get really tough and seemingly unbearable. This is necessary and good and promotes many good virtues, but God wants to use these perseverance and virtues as a conduit for a greater and greater manifestation of His grace, which is always a gift to be received and not something to be grasped at.
Jesus makes all things new; He does not just want to get rid of all bad things. There is Heaven after the end of the world, not just the seared and barren land we see in apocalyptic movies. There is a wedding feast we are all called to as part of His Bride, the Church.
There is always a greater song to be sung over the ruins of Babylon, which we see in the first reading:
Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great harlot
who corrupted the earth with her harlotry.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
The first reading reminds us that the world is ending because the ruler of the world is the evil one, the “great harlot,” and “the wages of sin is death,” which is a judgment. But may we be judged favorably when our time has come, to be counted among those avenged and redeemed, as our Lord intends and hopes for each one of us.
And above all, let us not be afraid!