Saturday, November 17, 2007

The end is near!

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 18, 2007:

Two priests from the local church were standing by the side of the road holding up a sign that read, “The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it’s too late!” The first driver to pass by yelled, “Leave us alone you religious nuts!” as he sped by. Then, from around the curve, they heard the screeching of tires and a loud crash. The priests looked at each other and one said, “Do you think maybe our sign should just say, ‘Bridge Out.’”

My brothers and sisters, the end is near! (In case you haven’t noticed.) The leaves falling from the trees signal that the warm weather is over and cold of winter is around the corner. Thanksgiving next Thursday reminds us that November is almost over. The Christmas decorations that have been out in the stores for a month already tell us that Christmas will soon be here and another year is almost over. As I said, the end is near!

As we enter today into the final two weeks of our Church year before Advent begins, our Scriptures also turn to the same theme that the end is near. The first reading from the prophet Malachi proclaims, “Lo, the day is coming!” And Jesus is asked in the Gospel, “When will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”

There is within us a very natural anxiety about “the end.” Will we be ready? Will we be among the chosen? Will we make it to Heaven? I spent some time with a few of our religious education classes this past week, and when I met with one of our fifth grade classes, there were a lot of questions about this very topic – they wanted to know about Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. And in the day-to-day life of the parish, I can’t tell you how many times good, active, practicing Catholics will bring me articles written about the End Times seemingly able to predict when it will all end. Surely everything going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Iran seem like signs that the end is indeed near.

Personally, I think that if there are any signs pointing to the Second Coming, it is the fact that all at the same time, the Red Sox have won their second World Championship in four years, the Patriots and Celtics continue to go undefeated, and the New England Revolution soccer team is in the Major League Soccer Cup. There’s many a voice in Boston saying, “Surely, the end is ne-ah!”

But, Jesus said, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”

There are, I think, two main points to what Jesus wants to convey today. The first is this: Do not interpret the crises of the world or even the crises of your life as if they were the end-of-the-world. We tend to do this far too often, and when we allow ourselves to go down this road of thought, we are not following the word of God. We are instead simply giving in to our fears and anxieties. We are letting fear win the day and rule our lives, instead of letting God rule our lives.

The second lesson is that there will be many people who will come claiming to be true prophets, saying that they speak in Jesus’ name. For example, if you’ve ever seen Pastor John Hagee or others like him on TV, you know that he will tell you exactly when the end is coming. But, the truth of the matter is that Jesus tells that even He doesn’t know the day or the hour when the end will come. Those who say otherwise are nothing other than false prophets. Jesus says clearly today, “Do not follow them.” The greatest sign of a false prophet is that they attempt to sow fear in the hearts of people. Our world today is too full of fear-mongering, fear-sowing voices. Again, Jesus says, “Do not follow them.”

A true prophetic voice is always one that spreads the hope and confidence, the encouragement and peace that comes from the One True God. A true prophetic voice reminds us that we can live through all of the crises of our lives, all the challenges we may ever face with peace in our hearts and with a sense of hope and trust that our God has not – and will not – ever abandon us.

And this is what Jesus says today; that in the face of challenge and trial, it is the peace in our hearts, it is our hope and trust in God that become the seeds of new life. These seeds of faith help to carry us through all of the difficulties and the joys of life. Jesus tells us that what truly gets us through life is worship and fidelity to our God; working through challenges with forgiveness; changing the things that can and must be changed; and developing a patient endurance that will consecrate and transform all of our suffering into glory. Jesus’ message of hope dares us to trust that, even in difficulty, God still reaches out to us with love and with hope and new and abundant life bursts forth.

The end is near….or not. But, nothing will ever happen that we cannot handle as long as we have the help of God.

May God give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. Now I have "It's the End of the World As We Know It" stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, Fr. Tom. :-P