TUESDAY HOMILY: Apocalypse Now?
...Or so say those who believe the expiration of the ancient calendar of the Mayan civilization means that time will also run out. I therefore advise you to do your Christmas shopping early.
In fact, I doubt very much if the world will end on December 21, and I'm planning to enjoy a happy Christmas celebration.
It makes you think however.
Have you ever noticed that everybody loves a good apocalypse? The word "apocalypse" comes from the Greek which means to "uncover" and this was the title of the book of the Bible we call Revelations. In popular usage it means some great cosmic cataclysm which will usher in the end of time and the end of the world as we know it.
When I say "everybody loves a good apocalypse" what I mean is that there seems to be a quirk in human nature that loves to be frightened about the end of the world. There are as many doomsday scenarios as there are groups of people to cook them up. Last year fundamentalist preacher Harold Camping had people believing the world would end on May 21, 2011. History is loaded with seers, prophets and soothsayers of all sorts who predicted doomsday: Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Baptist preachers, "Left Behind" movie makers, New Agers, Hindu prophets..the list goes on and on.
Don't forget those who look for a secular sort of catastrophe. The world will be invaded by aliens or hit by a huge meteorite. Sun storms will cause electrical blackouts or the poles will shift and cause chaos. There will be a global financial collapse. World War III will break out.
In the sixties the world was going to be destroyed by nuclear war.
Others predicted famines and civil strife because of overpopulation. Now others predict a "demographic winter" caused by underpopulation. Thirty years ago scientists warned us about a coming new ice age which would end our civilization as we know it. Now global warming is going to bring about a gradual, but sure catastrophe.
In today's gospel Jesus predicts the end times. He says many will come in his name. There will be wars and rumors of wars. Nation will rise against nation. There will be climatic extremes, earthquakes, famines and plagues and mighty signs of the end appearing in the skies.
What are we to make of such talk? The sceptic will say, "Sure, sure. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. World without end. Can't you see that there have always been earthquakes and wars and famines? Can't you see that people have always been looking for signs from heaven that predict the end of the world? Don't worry we'll still be here tomorrow." I can sympathize with the sceptic. It's easy to be complacent and say, "We've seen it all before. Some wild eyed preacher predicts the end of the world, but everybody gets up and has their cornflakes the next morning as usual."
On the other hand, it is also true that the world will end one day. The curtain will fall. The lights will go out. The play will be over. Time will be up. The question is not when this will happen, but are you prepared for it to happen.
The reason people continue to believe in the end of the world is not only the truth that the world will end one day, but that their world will end one day. That is to say, one day Mr Death will come knocking. Our lights will go out. The drama of our life will be over. The apocalypse will come for us. At that point all will be revealed. All will be uncovered.
The reason for the end of the world and the day and hour of the end is unknown. It's the same with our lives. We all think we will live to a ripe old age and die in our bed surrounded by family and friends. Maybe not. Each one of us is only a heartbeat away from eternity and therefore our apocalypse may be right around the corner.
We spend so much time worrying about the future and regretting the past. The message of the apocalypse is to live in the end of time right now. Apocalypse Now...and Eternity Now. In other words, learn to live in the present moment. The past is a memory. The future is a dream. Only the now is now. Only the now is present. Only the now is real. In one sense the end of the world is now and in another sense the whole of eternity is now. Salvation is here, now, always. Today is the day of salvation.
How shall we then live? A friend of mine who was a missionary priest died in his late thirties. From his deathbed, he testified, "Live each day as if it is your last and live each day as if you will live forever." What does that mean in practical terms? Live with a heart full or repentance. Be sorry for your sins with all your heart right here and right now. But also live with a heart full of joy. Finally, live this present moment as a moment free from fear.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. This means life can be lived to the full and full of joy. The world may end with a crash tomorrow, tonight or the next moment, but because our trust is in the one who is the Alpha and the Omega--the beginning and the end we can live in confidence, joy and peace.
Fr Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is Catholicism Pure and Simple. Visit his blog called Standing on My Head and go to his website to browse his books and make contact.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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