Tag Archives: Last Days

The Last Days

We began this week with the Feast of Christ the King and now all week we’re reading from the Old and New Testament about the last days. We share the kingly power of Jesus. We shouldn’t forget that as we read about a world turned upside down, floods, earthquakes, plagues and famines, when “awesome sights and signs will come from the sky.” (Luke 21,11) Who can survive?

Our readings sometimes refer to actual historic events experienced by Jesus and his disciples, like the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. As we look at our times, with its wars, political strife and increasing stores of nuclear weapons, we can be afraid..

Our days can seem like the last days. Even our personal experiences can lead us to believe that. I heard someone say awhile ago he thought the world ended when his marriage broke up. It took him years to get over it.

It’s no accident the Feast of Christ the King opens this week. By baptism we share in the kingly, priestly and prophetic power of Jesus. It’s not enough  just to hold on. We should face these days bravely, Jesus says.They’re a time to give testimony. Don’t worry about what words to say or what you are going to do:  “I myself shall give you a wisdom that all your adversaries will not be able to refute.” Don’t worry, “not a hair of your head will be destroyed.”

Don’t forget, though, as our reading from St. Luke for the Feast of Christ the King reminded us, Jesus was king, priest and prophet on Calvary.

There’s Gonna Be a Great Day

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.”

The Last Days

When Jesus came up to Jerusalem before his death, he was not a hapless Galillean peasant who would be cut down by a powerful Jewish-Roman elite. He was not simply a healer who was killed because he stirred up crowds and might also stir up revolution in the sensitive land of his day.

Those who believed in him saw him as a great teacher, a  “Rabbi” well aware of his times and his tradition. Matthew’s gospel emphasizes his role as teacher. But he was more than that, as Peter testifies in the 9th chapter of Matthew. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

In the chapters of the synoptic gospels  preceding his passion, Jesus Christ speaks about the world and its future, the “end times.”  In his new book,” Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2,” Pope Benedict calls this part of the gospel the most difficult part to explain.

Jesus sees the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and what follows it. That’s important as he goes to his death.

He sees himself as the new temple. In a new age, when the gentiles are called to believe in him, the old temple will be abandoned. Its sacrifices for sins now take place through the blood of the Lamb. His blood is shed for us and we are united to God through him.

So much of what Jesus does at the Last Supper begins that replacement of the temple and its sacrifices.

The temple and everything about it was dear to him. That’s obvious from what he says about it and his devotion to its worship. Like a mother hen he would have sheltered the Holy City under his wings, but it turned away, as it turned away from Jeremiah and the other prophets.

There are signs up on the buses from Union City to New York City that Judgment Day is  coming on May 21st. That’s the word from Harold Camping on Family Radio, who has it all figured out.

The pope’s summary of the end times in his book is so much more nuanced than that of the biblical  fundamentalists. He keeps the future mysterious, and repeats Jesus’ message to “stay awake” each day.

 

Advent’s Coming

We begin the season of Advent this Sunday. Jesus is Coming! He came over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, of course, but he said he would come again, at the end of time.

“He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will be without end.” In the Our Father, we pray: “Your kingdom come.” “We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ,” we say at Mass.

Joyful hope. Waiting in “joyful” hope means having a larger, long-term vision to sustain and strengthen us through our days. A joyful hope keeps dreams for something better for our world and ourselves alive.

A joyful hope saves us from small-mindedness, from being dragged down by failure, from being pulled a deadening present.

Deliver us from the days of Noah, this Sunday’s gospel says. “…In the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” The days of Noah are “same old, same old” days, nothing’s happening, nothing’s going on. “Turn on the Television,” “Have a beer,” The days of Noah are days of blinding routine.

In the days of Noah we need to be lifted up:   “When you’re down and out, lift up your head and shout, there’s gonna be a great day!” That’s what Advent does, it proclaims a Great Day.

While I was staying at Bethany last week, I met some fundamentalist Protestants who support the establishment of the State of Israel so that Jesus will return and God’s kingdom will finally come. They believe God has given the Jews all the land of ancient Palestine by a solemn biblical decree and when they take possession of it, human history comes to a victorious end. They believe Christians have to do all they can to hasten this coming by prayer and political action.

I disagreed with them. I don’t think God’s kingdom will come because a people take over a piece of land. Jesus seems to say that  in Sunday’s gospel.

“Therefore, stay awake!

For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”

Staying awake is what we have to do, and it’s harder to stay awake than to take over land.