One of my professors in seminary once remarked that the events of the last days as portrayed in the Scriptures should be read like the labor pangs of birth rather than cataclysmic destruction. In fact, the birth analogy is more in keeping with the fuller sense of Scripture than the “cataclysmic, world destroyed in a ravaging ball of fire, Hollywood 2012 movie” interpretation.
The texts of Scripture do not confirm, … a sort of “theory of catastrophes,” according to which there must first be a complete destruction of the world after which God can finally turn everything to good. No, God does not arrive at the end, when all is lost. He does not disown his own creation. In the book of Revelation we read, “You created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (4:11).
The “upheaval” expressed throughout the New Testament is that when the Son of Man comes, he comes not in the weariness of our habits nor does he insert himself passively into the natural course of things. When Christ comes, he brings a radical change to the lives of men and women and it is always a change that brings the fullness of life.
Notice that in this Sunday’s gospel passage (Mk. 13:24-32) after our Lord speaks of the coming of the Son of Man with “great power” he goes on to state: Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Our Lord does enter into our lives and the life of our world with “great power” but the upheaval he brings is an invitation to turn away from sin and the works of sin and to turn toward the fullness of life.
As Christians we are to live in this world not bound by the deadening works of sin and pride but rather in the upheaval and pangs of birth of the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Because every day and in every situation Christ is near, at the gates. The Book of Revelation gives us an image of this hope toward which we yearn and work. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:1-2). The great “Day of the Lord” is not yet to happen it has already happened! God has entered into creation and history in the person of Christ, eternity has entered into time, and now this upheaval comes to every generation and even each day. We are caught up in the great work of God where all peoples and nations will be gathered together into the new Jerusalem!
The “end of the world” must come every day. Every day, we must put an end to both the small or big pieces of the world’s evil and malevolence, but not by God but by people. Moreover, the days that pass, end inexorably. Nothing remains of them, but the good fruit or, unfortunately, the hardships that we create for others. Scripture invites us to keep the future, toward which we are led, in front of our eyes: the end of the world is not a catastrophe, but will in fact establish the holy city that comes down from heaven. It is a city that is a concrete reality, not an abstract one, gathering all the people around their Lord. This is the goal (and, in a sense also, the end) of history. But his holy city must begin in our daily life now so that it may grow and transform the lives of men and women into God’s likeness. It does not have to do with an easy and automatic grafting, but the common toil that every believer must fulfill, remembering what the Lord says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
(Quotes taken from The Word of God Every Day by Vincenzo Paglia.)