One of my professors in seminary would often remark 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 any “cataclysmic, world destroyed in a ravaging ball of fire, Hollywood movie” version.
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). We must also remember that at the very beginning of Scripture, after God has made everything, God looks upon creation and proclaims it to be good. God does not disown his creation.
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 … 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 … 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.
Our thoughts and prayers this weekend turn to Paris and the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks. One of the stated goals of ISIS is not just to bring about a caliphate (a Muslim state) but the apocalypse as they view it. They wish to bring about the apocalypse through acts of violence. Theirs is a sick and twisted ideology. Already the people of Paris are responding to these violent attacks by standing up and saying “We are not afraid.” This is a classic Christian response. We are not afraid because the coming day of the Lord is not a day of destruction but a day of life. The coming Day of the Lord will be when all injustice will be righted, every tear will be wiped away and life will reign! We are not afraid because God has entered into human history and has overcome violence and emptied the tomb of its power!
We are not afraid because Christ is Lord!
(Quotes taken from The Word of God Every Day by Vincenzo Paglia.)