As we approach the end of the liturgical year and the beginning of Advent on Sunday, our Mass readings focus on the end times. Our first readings are from the Book of Revelation and our Gospel has Jesus telling his disciples what it will be like for them as the end approaches.
I’m never quite sure of what to make of these end time readings. Clearly the world will end sometime, but it is, of course, impossible for any of us to predict when that will be. Jesus is pretty clear about that in today’s Gospel from St. Luke, telling his disciples that many will be say the time has come, but that it will not be so.
The problem with such predictions is that they can easily lull us in to a sense that we can cease working for the realization of Kingdom in this world. The opening scene of the movie Vision, which I wrote about yesterday was of a group of people who lay down to die at the end of the first millenium, convinced that the world would end that night. My friend Mark recently explained to me that there are some people who believe that there is no reason to work against poverty and other forms of social injustice because the end if the world is imminent. That strikes me as a pretty bad excuse for ignoring the suffering of our brothers and sisters.
We have no idea how long this world will end (although I’d be willing to bet a fair amount that it won’t be in 2012). But we do have a choice about how we spend however much time is remaining. It is our choice to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world or to simply lay down and wait for the end to come. Only one of those choices seems to me to be open to those who call themselves Christ’s disciples.