6th Sunday of Easter
Last weekend in the New York area we were waiting for the end of the world. That’s what the signs in the buses and on billboards predicted. It was a message from Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, who calculated from clues he deciphered in the Bible that May 21st was the day of judgment and later in October the world would finally come to an end.
Of course, it didn’t happen.
I must confess to being a long time viewer of Harold on his television program Open Forum, which comes on after the Evening News. Monday after the fateful day, I watched him respond to reporters asking for an explanation. The poor reporters didn’t have a chance. Harold has been dealing with questioners like them for years. They didn’t rattle him at all.
A spiritual earthquake occurred, Harold said. He hasn’t given up. The world’s going to end in October, just as he said. He’s sure of it. I’m not.
I think my interest in Harold comes from his interest in the future when, according to traditional Christian belief, Jesus “will come to judge the living and the dead.”
For Harold the last judgment is going to be like a scene from The Terminator and other grim science fiction movies that hold the popular imagination today. The last days are dark days when God gets even with the human race for its sinfulness and unbelief. The world falls apart in scenes of horrible cosmic death and destruction. Not many will be saved.
We are living in tough times and some people think our world isn’t going to make it. That’s why they listen to people like Harold.
What we need to do is listen to the Easter message of Jesus. It’s so different. Listen to him speaking in the gospel today to his disciples who fear they will be abandoned and wonder about their future. Their world was shaken too.
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” “He will lead us to God,” St. Peter says. ( I Peter 3,18) He gives us the Spirit of truth who will guide us from within. Jesus Christ is our Savior, a saving God.
Our first reading today describes a church experiencing a mysterious, unpredictable growth. From Jerusalem the gospel takes root in neighboring Samaria, an unlikely place to welcome it. From there it reaches to the ends of the Roman world. We believe that the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus set in motion a great surge of grace. God reaches out to creation, not to destroy it, but to bring it the blessing of life.
When we say Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead, we’re not predicting death and rejection. God blesses all time with love. We don’t have to worry about the day or the hour for this to happen. God offers us signs that he is still with us and will stay with us all days. The Eucharist is one of them.
God is with us “now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”