33rd Week OT/YrB/2015
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center
Doomsday Preppers. Apocalypse Preppers. The Urban Survivalist. “Buy your all-in-one 10 year survival kit here.” TV shows, documentaries, blogs & websites – even advertisements: the world is preparing for the worst. Everywhere we turn. Working in the computer technology field at the time, I remember the ridiculous amount of work we went through to be prepared for the worst when the whole world fell apart at midnight on Y2K. Every six or eight months there’s a new prediction telling us the world is going to end on such and such a day and at such and such a time… And isn’t there a part in all of us that keeps our eyes open just a little bit wider on those days…just in case?
Do you remember the moment the second plane hit the World Trade Center? The moment we knew it wasn’t a horrible accident…the moment we felt under attack and wondered whether or not it would get worse… Where were you on Friday night when you learned that Paris was under siege? Isn’t there some part of you that wonders, ‘Is this it? Look out – here it comes!’
There’s something in our nature that makes us wonder about the end of things… It goes back to the time of Jesus, whose closest friends had a sense that the Lord was a part of it all, because they’d come to believe He was God’s Messiah, the Anointed One – the Christ, who would usher in the last chapter. It goes back even farther than that, to ancient Israel and the great prophecies of Daniel. There’s something in our human nature that makes us wonder about the end of things; more often than not that wonder is more like worry.
Somewhere along the way, we began to get nervous, the end of things became something we prepare for in fear, something we need to be protected from… Think about it. In our common understanding, the word apocalypse has come to mean catastrophe – a catastrophe on a scale so grand that we may never recover from it. When in reality, the word itself means to unveil, to reveal, to show the truth, to get the rest of the story. That’s what’s being revealed in the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse of John that unveils the mystery about the end of things, the purpose of things, the resolution of things. We tend to fear the description of how far off course life will veer just before God – in His love – sets things aright. But the purpose of revealing these things isn’t so that we fear the worst, but so that we’ll maintain our hope and strength and joy in God who will bring us safely through to the glory that is to come!
Think about it – in our first reading from Daniel, most of us got so stuck on the coming “time [that will be] unsurpassed in distress” that we missed the promise that God’s “people shall escape.” We get so nervous about Jesus’ warning that “the sun will be darkened… and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” that we missed His promise to “gather the elect from the four winds.” We completely missed the line from the Psalm in today’s lectionary that reminds us to let our hearts be glad and our souls rejoice in the approaching revealing of all things because God “will not abandon my soul to the netherworld” – and we totally missed the power of Christ’s love to make “perfect forever those who are being consecrated” from St. Paul.
The Gospel acclamation prescribed for this Sunday in the lectionary reminds us to “be vigilant at all times” – to be ready, to be prepared. But that’s not a warning to prepare for the end of time in fear. The Enemy fears the end of time; and he does everything he can to wreck our relationship with God so that we need to fear it, too. Or, even better, the Enemy tries to get us so distracted with life and love and study and money and career and family and worldly happiness that is rooted in pleasure and comfort that we don’t ever even think about the last things. But the apocalypse – the revealing – the ushering in of the end of things is something to be celebrated and embraced, like the buds on the fig tree that signal the fruitfulness for which it was originally planted.
When we are in communion with God, when we are embraced within His Church and doing our best to live His teaching without rationalization to fit them into our comfort zones or preferences, when we are meeting His grace in the Confessional and worthily receiving Him into ourselves from this altar, when we are truly friends of Jesus Christ and living our lives with and for Him, we have nothing to fear and everything to hope for in the end of time. Because, if we are God’s friends, if we do as He commands and celebrate his mercy and love as He invites us to, at the end of it all it has been revealed that we will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory to save us and bring us to Himself, then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices at the hopeful coming of these things – and I hope yours does too! Even my body abides in confidence of Christ’s love, because He will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, no will He allow those of us who are faithful to undergo corruption.
Both fear and apathy of the apocylapse come from the Enemy – what lie of his can you let go of right now so that you can eagerly await to coming of the King? Time is short – this is the last week of time in any ordinary sense of the word. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!