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The End Times

January 24, 2021

A reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. The readings are Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and Mark 1:14-20.

Image by Joachim Nusch from Pixabay

The readings today make me think of the song by the group R.E.M:  “It’s the end of the word as we know it…” ♪

Except that they maybe don’t make you feel fine at all.

Several hundred years before Christ, people were telling stories about Jonah and how God was going to destroy Nineveh. Then John the Baptist appeared on the scene telling people to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:1-2). Then Jesus came and said, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). About 30 years later St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “The world as we know it is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31).

3000 years before that, the Mayans created a calendar that ended 5,125 years later. That was interpreted to prophecy that the world would come to an end in 2012. Remember the Mayan Apocalypse?

There are so many other end-of-world predictions that don’t make us feel fine.

I looked some of them up:

  • In the year 365 the French bishop Hilary of Poitiers predicted that the world would end that year, 365.
  • In the year 992, Good Friday coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation, on March 25 and many believed that would bring forth the end of times.
  • In 1284 Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would end that year: 666 years after the rise of Islam in 618.
  • In the 16th century, German astrologer, Johannes Stöffler, predicted that a great flood would cover the world on February 25, 1524.
  • In the 17th century, many Christians in Europe believed that the world would end in the year 1666. Martin Luther had predicted that it would happen no later than 1600
  • In 1910 scientists announced that Halley’s comet would pass by the earth, and a worldwide panic ensued as people expected the world to end.
  • In 1831 William Miller preached that the world would come to an end in 1843. He attracted as many as 100,000 followers. When nothing happened, Miller recalculated and predicted it would happen in 1844.
  • Harold Camping, predicted the end of the world as many as 12 times – In 1992, he predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011. When that didn’t happen, he pushed the date to October 21, 2011.

And Remember Y2K? Remember that in 1999 everyone thought that the world would end with the beginning of the year 2000 because of the “millennium bug” that threatened everything that is run by computers and would lead to total chaos all over the planet.

That same year there were predictions that the earth’s axis would shift, also causing massive destructions worldwide – I remember that.

These are just a few. Wikipedia, lists some 200 end-of-world predictions.

This year, you may have heard all kinds of theories connecting the coronavirus virus with the Great Reset, the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates and the vaccine, WhatsApp and Facebook, ISIS, the rise of Islam, Trump and Biden – somehow all connected and pointing clearly to the end of the world.

And people believe these things. According to the Chicago Tribune an Ipsos poll conducted in 2012 across 20 countries found that nearly 15% of the world’s population believe that the world will end in their lifetime.

As you can see, it’s nothing new. There were probably end of world theories as far back as the time of Noah’s.

But they’ve all been wrong.

Except for the first three I mentioned; the ones we heard in the readings today.

And that’s because those three are not talking about the end of the world.

Jesus is not talking about the end of the world, because that’s not the point. He himself says in the Gospel of Matthew that not even the Son (that’s him) knows the day nor the hour (Matthew 24:36). No one can predict the end of the world, not even the Son. When Jesus says, “this is the time of fulfillment”, he’s not talking about the end. 

He’s talking about a different time.

When Jonah goes to Nineveh and gives them God’s message: “In 40 days you will be destroyed” he’s not talking about the time of destruction; about the time of the end. He’s talking about the time of mercy. When Paul writes to the Corinthians and says, “The world in its present form is passing away” He’s  not talking about the time of the end;  He’s talking about the time for paying less attention to the things of the earth and more attention to the things of heaven.

when Jesus says, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” He’s not talking about the end. He’s talking about the beginning. If it was the end, the next thing Jesus would have done, wouldn’t have been to call disciples. It’s the beginning. That’s what the Church teaches. We are in the end times; but we’ve been here for 2000 years and we will be here until Jesus Christ comes to take us all home. That is what the Church teaches.

Those of you who were downstairs with me in our parish hall on Christmas Eve heard me say that God’s plan of salvation was set in motion with the creation of the world. And all that time until the birth of Christ was preparation, rehearsal. Until the birth of Christ. Then it’s no longer a preparation: Now it’s show time! That’s why Jesus says that “this is the time of fulfillment.”

And we are still in those times.

Remember during Advent that we preached about the Theological Virtues, Faith, Hope and Love? Remember what St. Paul says about them? “These three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13) Do you know why love is greater? Because in heaven you will no longer need faith or hope. The only thing that will remain is love.

That’s how we will know that we are at the end: Because the only thing that will remain is love. And we are not there yet.

And that is why this ‘time of fulfillment’ is a great time to repent. 2000 years ago was a great time to convert. 500 years ago was a great time to change our ways. Any time; every time, is a good  time to begin following Christ; to turn to God.

Last summer in 2020, Pope Francis wrote a book that just came out in December, titled Let Us Dream.  In it he talks about how all of us, in our own lives, at some point, have what he calls, “personal Covids”. These are times of crisis when we are forced to slow down or stop, we are forced to change direction, we are forced to re-assess, we are forced to make difficult choices. Those are times of great suffering. If you let it change you, you come out better. If you dig in and refuse to change, you come out much worse.

Are we going to let this time to make us better?

This time of fulfillment.

This time is a great time to repent; to turn back to God.

This is a time for less social media and more Scripture and spiritual reading; less screen time and more books. This is a time for less Netflix and more quiet prayer time. This time is a great time for focusing less on conspiracy theories and end-of-the-world predictions and focusing more on what’s good,  beautiful and true in the world. This is a time for more family, for more listening, for more caring. This is a good time for thinking about the 230 million people worldwide who suffer hunger and starvation because of this pandemic – it’s the end of the world for them. This is a time to do something to help them. Some of them live right in your community. This is a time for mercy. This is a time for strengthening our faith and the faith of others. This is a time for lighting candles of hope. This is a time for more love.

This time is a great time to follow Christ; to turn our lives to God.

Anytime is a good time for all these things.

Anytime is a good time to start thinking about heaven; to repent; to change our ways, to turn to God. Any time is a good time to make disciples and to go announce the Gospel of the Lord.

We are in the end times, but it is not the end of the world. Although when we turn our lives to God, I guess, it does feel like the end of the world as we know it…

…and I feel fine. ♪♪

 

From → English, Reflections

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