This reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of Dec. 15, 2013:
“Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” The Lord will return in his Glory at the perfect time–not too soon, not too late. We must be prepared for him, obviously, but we must also be patient.
One of the things that comes to mind is how people try to predict the end of the world. I’ve even tried it, at least once. I had read something in the book of Daniel–I think it was Daniel–about the moon turning to blood and the sun disappearing, or something like that, within some time frame before the world ended. It reminded me of solar and lunar eclipses. So, I went online and tried to determine when both eclipses would happen in such a time frame, or when they happened nearest to each other–I can’t remember it exactly. I had no luck. To the contrary, I saw that the two types of eclipses occurred near to each other all the time.
An interesting thing that I remember hearing in the Gospels is that Jesus did not know when the end would come. He said that the Father had not given him that information; he said that only the Father knows. Now, some time after my own epic quest to discover the time of the Second Coming, the thought came to me of Jesus on a computer, trying to figure out when the end of the world would come–by, say, comparing the times and dates of eclipses. I found that thought funny, but obviously it would never happen.
Jesus easily knows everything that we know–everything that there is to know, for that matter, except for when the world will end. However, if even Jesus wasn’t told when the Second Coming will be–assuming that’s the same as the end of the world–then how can human beings possibly believe that they can figure it out? If the knowledge wasn’t given to God the Son (who, I should add, is wise enough to accept that and not try and seek out knowledge which wasn’t given to him), then most likely the knowledge simply doesn’t exist outside of God the Father; therefore, such knowledge just wouldn’t be able to be obtained within Creation’s boundaries unless God wanted it to be. And he clearly doesn’t want it to be. Why?
If you suddenly realized that the end of the world was going to be in exactly one month, do you seriously think that you’d have the same outlook on life as you did before such a thing dawned on you? Neither would I. That would go for just about everyone–of every religion and of every culture. If people knew the world would be ending in a month, many of them would begin to do all of the right things…for the wrong reasons. They would be repenting, begging forgiveness, settling differences, and trying hard to appreciate every moment. These are all good things to do; the only problem is that people would be doing them out of fear–or in the case of appreciation, they would be appreciating things which they normally wouldn’t think twice about, only because they know that they won’t have them much longer. Instead of doing God’s will for the sake of doing God’s will, they would be busy trying to act good so as to save themselves from punishment. And, of course, they would be trying to prevent the end, which would be a truly useless task that they would take the greatest pride in attempting. They would also be panicking like crazy.
That is never how the end was–or is–meant to be. That’s what I mean when I say we should be prepared as well as patient. We should already have made our amends and forgiven our enemies, and we should already be appreciating every moment of our lives and begging God’s forgiveness. If we knew when the world would end, many of us would sin to our hearts’ content, with the thought “I can just repent later.” As it is now, however–with people not knowing when the end will come–we are kept on our toes. We have to try and do our best all the time, and to always be in good standing with God, so that we won’t be caught off guard by Christ’s Second Coming and wind up in the judgment seat with a boatload of sin heaped on our souls.
Even if someone was told when the world would end, however, that still doesn’t provide an answer as to when that particular person’s life will end. If I’m not mistaken (but I’m probably going to sound like I’m contradicting myself), there will supposedly be some sort of signs when the Second Coming is directly upon us. Death, on the other hand, grants us no such luxury. At any time, any one of us could be eliminated in any number of ways. There’s usually no way to predict when life’s going to end.
Recently on EWTN, I heard about someone who did know that death was coming–and soon. She wasn’t panicked. She wasn’t sad. She actually felt blessed. She essentially said that she had never been happier than she was then–to have all her differences settled, to have everything sorted out, and to be appreciating every moment of her life because she knew that she didn’t have many moments left. Her only regret was that she hadn’t lived that way in the past.
We ought to be thinking like that. Death is indeed going to come for all of us; it’s only a matter of time. We may like to pretend that life on this earth will go on forever, but it won’t. And only if we attain God’s mercy will our life be able to continue in Heaven. Therefore, we should always try be in good standing with our Lord, and we have to try and appreciate every single second of our lives. To put it plainly (and perhaps flatly), death isn’t just an article in a newspaper. It’s real, it’s loose on earth, and it’s coming for us and our loved ones. Perhaps not the most pleasant way of phrasing it, but it’s the truth. It’s not necessarily something to fear–it’s merely another step in our journey home to God–but it’s really something to keep in mind. Perfect incentive to appreciate all that we have.
Another point made by today’s readings that I want to mention: “Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.” We are one another’s blessings. Why waste our precious little time on this earth complaining about our blessings, when we could be trying our best to appreciate them? Sometimes, people–including this writer–can most assuredly be painstaking, insufferable snotbags, but they are still our gifts from God. Not only that, but we will be judged by the Lord as we see fit to judge. None of us can judge one another perfectly, so why try? Rather, we should think the best that we can of others, and leave the Final Judgment to the Judge Himself.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan says–and whether he came up with this or got it from someone else, I don’t know–that there are “Three Comings of Christ”: Jesus came on the first Christmas, he comes in our everyday lives, and he will come again (in the end). Exactly why we should always be appreciating and expecting Jesus.
“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”–Jesus (Luke 18:8)
by Cameron Daly