Today might be the day. You never know. Our Lord himself said he knew neither the day nor the hour but we Christians hold that our Lord will return in glory and we look toward this day. Recently a Christian movement has gained some attention by its prediction that today (May 21, 2011) is the day. They might be right but these predictions have occurred before. In fact, the man purporting to have now cracked the code that today is the day has predicted Judgement Day before but obviously that prediction was incorrect and based on lack of information as he later stated.
What is interesting is the attention that this prediction has received. I think that this attention is speaking to some interesting dynamics present in our day and age. Here are a few as I see them.
In our American mindset we like to figure things out. We are very pragmatic as a people. This is a part of our national strength and character. Our country has accomplished some great things because of this strength. The problem though is that we easily apply this mindset to faith and Scripture as though it all were a code to be puzzled through and this, I think, misses the mark. As a wise professor once told me, “The paschal mystery is not a puzzle to be figured out and solved but a mystery to be lived. As we live the mystery we are brought to greater and greater understanding and deeper discipleship.” Maybe instead of viewing the Bible as a hidden code to be cracked (which I personally think demeans Holy Scripture) we should see it as a sacred space of encounter and relationship between us and God and us and our neighbor. My take on faith is that it is not about figuring out a certain date as it is about learning how to live as our Lord lived which means living and embracing the paschal mystery in our own lives.
I believe that fear is a factor in all of this. The world is changing and whenever there is change we get uncomfortable. The weather patterns are changing. Global warming is an all but accepted fact. Pope Benedict in his writings acknowledges this. Global warming does not so much mean that things will just get a little warmer but that weather will become more extreme (i.e. the recent tornadoes in the southern states, more severe flooding and more severe draughts). Recent earthquakes have rattled our collective consciousness. The economic meltdown has demonstrated that commerce is not the all-solid foundation we once believed. Gauging our greatness on our ability to consume might be becoming a thing of the past. Those Muslims who once resided on their side of the world now live in the house up the street and next door there is now a homosexual couple. Christianity is now just one other voice in a largely secular society. For many, the world as they know it is ending. Surely our Lord must be returning soon to save his chosen! As Christians, we cannot be meant to live in a world like this! But, maybe now is the time when Christians, rather than being taken from the world, are meant to be more than ever in the world – living the paschal mystery in love and not in fear speculating on dates.
Sincerity also has a role to play here. I believe the man who has made this prediction and the people of this movement are very sincere. They believe that this is the day and, again, they may be right. But sincerity does not always equal truth. One might be very sincere but completely wrong. But we do not always catch this in our day and age. Partly due, I believe, to a decrease in and de-emphasizing of critical thinking. If one is sincere enough, feels enough, believes enough then it must be so! Well … no, not really. Sincerity itself does not equal truth.
Finally, a yearning for sacred time. Yesterday, as I was driving down the interstate and reflecting on this I found myself indeed yearning for the return of the Lord. We, the Church, are the bride and we do indeed yearn for the return of the bridegroom. The world is limited, it is marked by sin and all its effects and it does become wearisome. As Christians we are meant to yearn for the fulfillment of all ages and for more than this world has to offer. The prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus” is an honest prayer spoken from the heart of the Christian. Any prediction of the end time taps into this honest yearning in the heart of the Christian.
Today at 6 p.m. I will be in the middle of saying Mass – not a bad place to be when the world is supposed to end. It may happen today. It may not.
Whenever it does happen (either the end of the whole world or the end of my own little life) I hope my Lord finds me in faith and hope, with a song in my heart – not worried about determining a date but more focused on living and embracing the paschal mystery.