The Church has her focus placed elsewhere.
Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in heaven will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” —Mark 13:24-27
Speculation and anxiety about the end of time and of the world is neither new nor unusual. For centuries, seers and sages and mystical texts—like Nostradamus and the prophecies attributed to St. Malachy—have been making dire predictions about the future. While we see the devastating and lasting effects of climate change, science has also contributed to the dread we might feel by citing a series of possible scenarios in which the world (at least as we know it) could come to an end through collision with another celestial body or even because of the cooling of the sun.
While these grim statistics and “prophecies” can instill a sense of dread in any heart, the Church has consistently placed her focus elsewhere: As we look forward to the coming of Christ at the end of time, we should entrust the unknown and unknowable future to God’s care.
We can’t waste our energies on idle speculation about the future. After all, Jesus himself reminds us that “of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). And so, St. Mark’s vision of the Son of Man “coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26) can be understood as the climax of the Paschal Mystery: Seated at God’s right hand, his work is complete, and he now waits to welcome all who will follow him through death to life (cf. Hebrews 10:12-14).
Jesus has conquered sin and death and this Sunday’s Readings—with their vision of the glorified, all-powerful Son of Man—should be a source of hope as we continue to confront the trials and challenges of life; our prayers this Sunday should also include those Christians who are facing the very harsh reality of persecution because of their faith in Jesus.
While the prospect of the “end of the world” might be a source of dread for some, we would do well to remember that as Christians we should always be oriented towards the future. While Jesus does foresee a passing away of the old, created world, he also announces the awakening of something new—just like the new growth on the fig tree after a long, harsh winter. As Pope Francis has reminded us:
Everything passes, the Lord reminds us; he alone, his Word remains as the light that guides and encourages our steps. He always forgives us because he is at our side. We need only look at him and he changes our hearts. May the Virgin Mary help us to trust in Jesus, the firm foundation of our life, and to persevere with joy in his love.
This new creation is the reign of God and it is a reality of light, not darkness; life, not death; peace and love, not destruction and want. In the end, the message for us this Sunday is a simple reminder: When the world around us seems to be falling apart, Jesus is breaking in.
What are your hopes for the future? Where do you put your trust? How does the “breaking in” of Christ help you find new perspective on the challenges you face in daily living? What promise does this vision for the future hold for you? For the world?How is God calling you to share this hope with those who have no hope? With those whose hope is misplaced?
Words of Wisdom: “He is coming who is everywhere present and pervades all things; he is coming to achieve in you his work of universal salvation. He is coming who came to call to repentance not the righteous but sinners, coming to recall those who have strayed into sin. Do not be afraid, then: God is in the midst of you, and you shall not be shaken.”—St. Andrew of Crete