I feel like this past year has been passing in a flash and, as I listened to the Mass readings this morning, I focused for the first time on the fact that we are nearing the end of yet another liturgical year. (I suspect the fact that I was traveling for the six weeks in the fall is a major contributor that this fact came almost as something of a surprise to me.)
I’ve observed in the past that I am never quite sure of what to make of these end time readings that we will hear from now until the beginning of Advent. Clearly the world will end sometime, but it is, of course, impossible for any of us to predict when that will be. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples ask when the end will come, but Jesus’ answer, while giving some ideas of the things that will happen as we approach the end, does not give them a very clear idea when that will occur.
Some people claim to know when the end will come, and such claims have been made for centuries. In the opening scene of the movie Vision, about the life of Hildegard of Bingen, a group of people lay down to die at the end of the first millennium, convinced that the world would end that night. Even today, 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.
We have no idea how long it will be before this world will end. 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.
Being 63, having lost five of nine siblings, just transitioning to early retirement I have heard the end-time readings with a different ear. My suggestion would be to visit an old person (in my sister-in-law’s case, in last stages of Parkinson’s) in a memory unit, perch yourself in downtown MSP and consider the Metrodome and plans to replace it with a $1 billion football palace, or mark the Kennedy assassination this week in an especially attentive way. Whatever you choose, do an Ignatian “composition of place” with the end-of-times gospel passages in mind. Blessings!
A lovely post and a great comment.