End of the World
33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
Today we hear some pretty sobering news: the world is going to end. I'm quite tempted, at this point, to just end the homily and sit down. The major thrust of Jesus words today is quite simple: this present world will pass away, are we ready?
Every year at this time our readings focus on the end times. As we approach the end of the Church's liturgical year we are reminded that time is not simply running without an end in sight. Rather, the world as we know it will come to an end one day, at that time there will be new heavens and a new earth. Jesus is giving us a warning in the gospel today: be like the fig tree, know the times and seasons, be ready for trial and tribulation.
If you are like most people your blood pressure is probably starting to rise. You might be getting a bit nervous. Doesn't all this end of the world stuff worry you? You are probably waiting for me to let you off the hook: don't worry the end is not really coming, etc. But, you will not get that from me today. For indeed the end is coming, we know neither the day nor the hour.
Why do we get so worked up about the end of the world? I remember once I was visiting a class at Marian and the kids were all worked up about the end of the world because a movie said that it was coming to an end in 2012. So they asked me if the world was going to end in 2012 and I simply said yes, next question. Well, of course, it doesn't look like the world will end in the next 6 weeks. But, the end of the world should not really cause us much panic for 2 reasons.
First, there is absolutely nothing we can do about the end of the world. The Father in heaven knows the day and the hour, none of us know it. And even if we knew the day, we wouldn't be able to stop it. This is not Jesus' point anyway. He does not tell us to forestall the end; rather, he simply tells us to be ready for it. So we shouldn't be worried about the end of the world, because it will happen when it happens regardless of our worrying about it. Anxiety will get us nowhere.
Secondly, we should not be worried about the end of the world because when the end comes Jesus comes with it. Every week we profess our creed together, we say that we believe that Jesus Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead and that his kingdom will have no end. Even though we say this every week, do we stop to think about it? Just because Jesus has not returned in the last 2000 years does not mean that he couldn't return today. Are we ready? Holding the doctrine that Jesus could return at any time should not fill us with dread, it should fill us with excitement. I mean don't we want to see Jesus? Every week we pray for his coming.
Every year at this time we are reminded that the end is coming. But, this should not cause us concern or anxiety. First, because that anxiety will change nothing; second, because this end means the beginning of eternity with God in Christ. The key here is to maintain a balance: yes the end is coming, we should be ready, be on the lookout for the signs, but it should not fill us with dread; rather, it should fill us with hope as we long to see the reign of our savior, which begins even now as we turn our lives over to him and place all our trust in him.