Mark Twain once said: “when the end of the world comes. . . I want to be in Kentucky. They’re always about 20 years behind everyone else.”
7 year old Billy said: “When they announce there are only four days left until the end of the world. . . that’s when I will get better at subtraction.”
When will the end of the world happen? This is a question people have been trying to answer for a long, LONG, time.
The Romans thought it would be in 634 B.C. – based on a number that 12 eagles had revealed to their legendary founders Romulus and Remus.
St. Hippolytus of Rome said it would be in the year 500 A.D. ---- based on a formula he derived from the dimensions of Noah’s Ark.
Pope Sylvester II said the end of the world would be 1000 A.D. at the close of the millennium – which caused riots in the streets of Rome and a flocking of people to Jerusalem.
Martin Luther thought the end was coming no later than 1600. And remember when everyone thought the Y2K bug would crash computers and cause catastrophes that would destroy the technological world as we know it?
Norse mythology, Orthodox Judaism and of course we followers of Jesus Christ – know that the end is coming – we just don’t know when. . .
It’s the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time, and so the Church is coming to the end of our liturgical year. Next weekend is the Solemnity of Christ the King, which finishes off the Sundays of Ordinary Time, and then it’s on to the new liturgical year with Advent.
And so with two weeks to go – the Church is using this end of the year theme to mirror a greater mystery: the end of history.
This sort of thing can be interesting to us. Movies are made about catastrophes and natural disasters and the end of the world. We usually think about angels and judgment and all the things that come with it. The big question is the same one that it was in Jesus’ time ---and before and ever since --- WHEN? When will the end come?
Today, Jesus gives us a few signs that will come before the end – saying there will be wars and famine.
If we would read the Book of Revelation we would hear of the Anti-Christ first making an appearance before the end –
And the prophet Malachi told us --- the day will come like a blazing oven. . .
All are to be signs of the end times. . .
But here is the thing – we have had wars and famines for the two thousand years since Christ walked the earth. There always seem to be people in every generation who are blatantly labeled the anti-Christ – Hitler, Stalin, Osama-bin Laden to name a few. And every single summer in Kansas City feels like a blazing oven. . . So what are the definitive signs???
What I would suggest is that we’re missing the point if we are seeking a sign or a date for the end times. . . Much like the concept of heaven we dealt with last week ----- the second coming of Jesus, the end of the world – transcends the logic of human minds and history. We DON’T know when, how, or why Jesus will come. We can’t figure out a date, nor should we.
The point is that Jesus WILL come again ---- and we need to be prepared. NOT by building bomb shelters or stocking up on bread and milk – but preparing with---- hopeful anticipation.
The Greek word Parousia, which Shelly had a hard time saying --- is used to describe the end times. The word literally means the welcoming ----- or the grand arrival --- of an important guest. . .
This is how we are called to prepare for the end --- with hope and open arms, hearts, lives and minds --- to welcome the coming of our special guest – Jesus Christ.
I think maybe a sports analogy might work here. There is some tendency in our culture to avoid thinking of the last things – the great truths like death and judgment and heaven and hell. We are simply told to enjoy ourselves while we can – and not to worry about the big picture. But really, that view of the end isn’t very accurate and certainly won’t be good for us. . .
It would be like telling an athlete to just enjoy their time playing in the game – and don’t get too worried about the outcome of the game -----
until it is the last inning, the last quarter, or the last set ---
Any good athlete enjoys the game by playing hard and doing their best to win the game. They know that the 4th quarter or the 9th inning is right around the corner, the clock is ticking -----
and the time will soon run out. And when it does, and they make their way back to the locker room – they all want two things:
Hopefully that they won the game – AND that they pushed themselves as hard as possible to play their part in order to win.
The lesson of the Gospel is similar. Yes, our time on earth will come to an end someday. The clock is ticking, and the 4th quarter is on the way.
But there is also a big difference – an athlete can give his or her all and still lose. They can be satisfied with their performance, but still disappointed with the outcome.
But as Christians – we have to play to win. If we as Christians give our all-- in the time we have, spending our lives striving to be more like Christ every day --- in spite of hardships, sufferings, persecutions, opposition, and enemies – then victory is assured – a crown of righteousness will be awaiting us in heaven.
Today as we gather for Mass, we are mindful that the end times will come. But we come to the Eucharist striving to give our all – to prepare, to hope, and to imitate the love of Christ each and every day. As we receive the Eucharist, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet, let us receive what we need to be holy in this life – so that we can live with God forever in the life to come.
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