LIFE IS SHORT; DEATH IS CERTAIN; ETERNITY IS FOREVER!
The Bible says that in the final days or “end times” there will be “distress of nations”. This is certainly the case today given the events in the Middle East, Israel, Russia, China, Syria, Africa, Europe and in the U.S. We have seen anger, violence, riots and distress of nations around the world. 2015 has been the year of unrest and violence.
As we come towards the end of the Church’s official calendar of worship, the liturgical year, we are reminded of the end times. We are warned not to get entrapped in this passing world, but to fix our gaze on the everlasting things.
- The End of the World
: A woman was hurrying from work. This was her bingo night. Suddenly she spotted this fellow standing on the edge of the pavement holding aloft this placard which read: THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR. She went up to him and said, “You say the end of the world is near.” “That’s right missus,” he replied. “But are you sure?” “Quite sure missus.” “And you say it’s near.” “Yes missus.” “How near?” “Oh, very near.” “Could you be more precise?” “This very night, missus.” She paused for a few moments to reflect on this. Then in a voice full of anxiety, she asked, “Tell me, son, will it be before or after bingo?” –— The world in which we live is an uncertain one. It seems to lurch from one crisis to another. This uncertainty can cause great fear and anxiety. In the midst of this uncertainty we need something to rely on. For the Christian that can only mean one thing: faith in God. —Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy day Liturgies’
- Then Comes the Dawn
: Years ago an old municipal lamplighter, engaged in putting out his lights one by one, was met by a reporter who asked him if he never grew tired of his work in the cold dark night of labour. “Never am I cheerless,” said the old man, for there is always a light ahead of me to lead me on.” “But what would you have to cheer you when you have put out the last one?” asked the writer. “Then comes the dawn.” said the lamplighter. —- A man of the world might have asked Jesus the same question. One light after another did he put out: the lamp of popular acclaim, the lamp of patriotic approval, the lamp of ecclesiastical conformity -all for the sake of God’s love which burned in his heart and showed him a better way. At last even the light of his life was to flicker out on the hill called Calvary. What then? We hear his voice, “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” and then the dawn came. —Carl Knudsen in ‘The Living One’
- Life’s Like That: A distressed youth was about to hang himself when his old neighbour entered his house. “What are you doing?” shouted the old man. “I’m committing suicide” said the youth in desperation. “Well” said the old man, “if you give me good reasons for committing suicide, I wont stop you.” The youth complained tearfully about personal, societal and global problems. Thereafter, the neighbour asked, “Have you got another rope?” Puzzled, the youth asked: Why? the old man seighed, “That I might hang myself too” (Francis Gonsalves SJ)
Distress and death are two themes that emerge from the readings today as we approach the end of the liturgical year.
In the First Reading, Daniel presents the final days as a time of judgment, a time of punishment and reward.
The Second Reading, Hebrews 10 portrays the heavenly temple as a heavenly court. In the end, God will rule over all peoples, with his Son at his right side. The sacrifice of the Son would forgive sin forever, but sinners would be defeated.
In the Gospel of today, Jesus evokes the image of Daniel 7 for the end time. Tension on a cosmic scale will give way to the coming of the Son of Man. While disciples might look forward to the end time with anticipation, ultimate knowledge of the Second Coming belongs to the Father.
As we approach the end of the Church year, our Gospel invites us to consider Jesus’ predictions and teaching about the end of the world. In the context of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ words about this are spoken to his disciples as he prepares them for his passion and death.
Before we consider Jesus’ words, it is important to note the political backdrop against which many think Mark’s Gospel was written. Most scholars concur that Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians living in or near Rome about 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus. This was a time of political turmoil in Rome. Some Christians experienced persecution by the Romans during the reign of the emperor Nero (about 64 A.D.). Jewish revolutionaries rebelled against the Romans, which led the Romans to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In this time of political turmoil and persecution, many in Mark’s community might have wondered if the end times predicted by Jesus were in fact quite near.
Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ observation about the contributions being made to the temple treasury and the example of sacrificial giving that he saw in the poor widow’s offering. If we had been reading Mark’s Gospel continuously, we would have heard Jesus predict the destruction of the Temple, his teaching about the costs of discipleship, and the woes that will accompany the end times. Finally, we would have heard Jesus instruct his disciples about the need for watchfulness so that they will not be caught unprepared for this final day of judgment.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues this teaching by offering his disciples signs to look for that will indicate that the coming of the Son of Man is near. His words and images draw upon Old Testament imagery, especially images found in the Book of Daniel. Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the fig tree, a parable that teaches that if one knows how to read the signs, one can be prepared for the end times. Jesus also teaches, however, that no one knows when the end time will come, except the Father. In the verses that follow this reading in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus continues to warn his disciples to be on watch for this end time.
Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten his disciples, nor should they frighten us. Rather, they are offered to prepare us for the changes we will experience during our lifetimes and at the end times. Our consolation and hope is found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ words and God’s never-ending love for us. Jesus said, “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come.” Mark 13:32.
And we don’t know when the time will come. People in the early Church believed that Jesus would return before they died. They died without seeing his return. Today, thousands of people around the world have died, and their death became their “end of times.” When we live in fear, we are not living fully, nor are we aligning ourselves to the Will of God which is to TRUST HIM, TO KNOW HIM, AND TO LIVE A LIFE WHICH GLORIFIES HIM.
So, speculating that we are living in the end of times, and we might be because we are all surely going to die one day, how can we prepare for the end of times, just in case?
1) Follow the advice of St. Padre Pio:
“Pray. Hope. Don’t Worry.” Hope is a fruit of the Holy Spirit gifted to us through prayer. Peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that comes when we cease to worry.
2) Trust God. Surrender to his holy Will.
These events may or may not be the holy Will of God. When you don’t trust God and step aside to let him work, fear becomes the fruit and fear is not of God. Trust that our God who created the heavens and the earth, knows what he’s doing. Pray, but don’t pray out of fear. Pray because you love God and you Trust him above all else. Give Yourself to him, and let him guide you. Forget the fear mongers. They might have good intentions, but trust and obedience to the Will of God is far more important than one’s good intentions.
3) Invoke the Holy Spirit often during your day. Ask Him to guide your prayer. Ask him to help you surrender your fears to Jesus who has said:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20 I am with you… It doesn’t matter. Jesus will be with us always.
4) Read and meditate on Sacred Scripture daily.
Trust that this is the Word of God and through sacred scripture, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have left us with the Words of True life. In these words we find love, trust, consolation, and courage. We just don’t know when we will die. We don’t know when the world will end. We don’t know! But our God lives for forever!
5) Practice humility and use common sense.
Think objectively of those who seem to “know and propagate” their “knowledge” of the end of times. Pray for them. Love the sinner and hate the sin. Satan is not humble, he does not exalt God. he wants you to be anxious. he wants you to be unhappy. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5: 6-9. If you do this, you will be ready for the “end of times,” because your heart and your soul will be aligned with the will of God. God will be first in your life. It only makes sense. Be ready not because you fear the events that the “end of timers” predict but because you love God above all else.
25 Ways to Make a Difference in the World Every Day (Some of my favorite QUOTES)
1. Wake up AND Thank God for the gift of life. ~Karen Maezen Miller
2. Make a difference in yourself, for the better through prayer, reading the Word of God. Such an inward difference always has rippling outward benefits. ~Hansoul Kim
3. Remember there are three poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. Do not deny their existence but turn them around and you have generosity, compassion, and wisdom. ~Clifton Bradley
4. Make it a habit to respect everyone big or small, young or old, rich or poor. ~Margarita Medina
5. Consider the people you see each day. Sometimes I get wrapped up in things I am working on— fundraisers etc. But the coworker, family member, pet right next to you are the people you can truly reach and touch. ~Amy E. Moore
6. Operate from a place of love. ~ Erika Gonzalez
7. Be kind to others. In this busy world people become self consumed and forget that kindness goes a long way. ~ Ana Stuckart
8. Acknowledge the light within myself and in others. Not always easy to do but feels so powerful when I am able to do so. ~Maria Thieme
9. Talk to someone that you think might be in distress. You may make the difference of a lifetime. ~Alexander De Raadt St.James
10. Simply show up. Just put your soul into it. If you show up physically with the soles of your feet, the heart, mind, and soul will have a chance to follow or catch up. You may not want to be there in the beginning, but showing up allows a committed chance at making a difference everyday for the people you love, the people you will meet, and the eventual person you will become. Show up. ~Holli Grant
11. Smile often. ~Seret Rafferty
12. Be more involved in the world, share your talents, time, money, knowledge and peace. You can’t be a spectator forever. ~Christina Breeden
13. Be the change you wish to see in the world! ~April Spears paraphrasing Gandhi
14. Be gentle and practice sympathetic joy. ~Susan Cross
5. Start really listening to the people around you. Your family, for example. People crave for attention. People feel loved when given attention.. Give love. And listening is an act of love. ~Leoni Erica Tayamen
16. Listen lovingly. Give ungrudgingly. Do sincerely. ~Phyllis Fenander
17. Teach your kids by example; be caring, open minded, have good manners and remember to smile and appreciate. ~Paivi McKittrick
18. Look into your child’s eyes. Stop what you are doing, sit down, and just look into them. Do that every day and you will change the world. ~Noel Cocca
19. Be a true you…positive energy attracts. ~Jane George
20. Love like Christ did. ~Stephen Kreins
21. I quote the great Horatio Lee Jenkins: “Don’t worry—everything is going to be awesome!” ~Carl Dangers
22. Find someone that needs a smile and give them that smile, once a day for the rest of your life, and like a ripple in a pond it will be carried onwards. ~SoulLife Searcher
23. Speak without saying a word. A lot can be said without words. ~Ralph Rocha
24. Learn to be aware of all the wonder we have around us, let the past be in the past and not part of the future. Choose life every day, be grateful for whatever you have, and most important share, share, share—spread as much love as you can. ~Lula Insfran
25. Hakuna mattata, one love, pay it forward. ~Kerin Colby
And finally, let’s take a humorous look at “When the End of the World arrives, how will the media report it?”
USA Today: WE’RE DEAD
The Wall Street Journal: DOW JONES PLUMMETS AS WORLD ENDS
National Enquirer: O.J. AND NICOLE, TOGETHER AGAIN
Microsoft Systems Journal: APPLE LOSES MARKET SHARE
Victoria’s Secret Catalog: OUR FINAL SALE
Sports Illustrated: GAME OVER
Wired: THE LAST NEW THING
Rolling Stone: THE GRATEFUL DEAD REUNION TOUR
Readers Digest: ‘BYE
Discover Magazine: HOW WILL THE EXTINCTION OF ALL LIFE AS WE KNOW IT AFFECT THE WAY WE VIEW THE COSMOS?
TV Guide: DEATH AND DAMNATION: NIELSON RATINGS SOAR!
Lady’s Home Journal: LOSE 10 LBS BY JUDGEMENT DAY WITH OUR NEW “ARMAGEDDON” DIET!
America Online: SYSTEM TEMPORARILY DOWN. TRY CALLING BACK IN 15 MINUTES.
Inc. magazine: TEN WAYS YOU CAN PROFIT FROM THE APOCALYPSE
Microsoft’s Web Site: IF YOU DIDN’T EXPERIENCE THE RAPTURE, DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE PATCH RAPT777.EXE.
And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. (Mk 13: 26, 27)
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.