Summary: Prophecies of the return of Christ or end of the world are unprofitable and erroneous. Not even Jesus would attempt it. Our work is to be like Christ to the world.
Last Sunday After Pentecost 2014
Modern so-called prophets seem to be rising out of the Protestant and Pentecostal worlds every couple of years or so. There’s even a rare Catholic among them sometimes. Their stock-in-trade seems always to be a prediction of the return of Jesus. That Jesus will return is an article of faith that we profess every Sunday in our Credo. But not even Jesus claimed to know, in His human nature, what the day or hour of that return would be.
That Biblical reality has not prevented many from trying to work out the time of Christ’s return. There are whole sects founded on such predictions. They are generally grouped together under the name “Adventist.” William Miller, almost two hundred years ago, predicted the end would come in 1843 or 1844. A number of people claimed the immanent end of time or the return of Christ during World War I. Some of us remember the names of Jim Jones, Hal Lindsey and The Late, Great Planet Earth, Elizabeth Clare Prophet. I know folks who remember churches meeting on New Year’s Eve, 1965, expecting that the year ‘66 would be the end. A couple of years ago somebody thought that a Mayan prophecy would herald the end before Christmas. Asteroids, climate change, thermonuclear war–it’s enough to keep those who read the predictions in a perpetual state of panic.
Let’s put some order into this expectation. First, Jesus Christ will come again at the end of time to separate the sheep from the goats, and gather the just into the kingdom of the Father. That’s the most important point, the critical issue. We must live and die in charity so that we can be part of the great celestial banquet that Christ, in our priests, makes present on our altars every day. No more important objective exists. Be good; do good; repent of and confess your sins and make frequent use of the sacraments of salvation.
Second, don’t get involved in trying to decipher the meaning of Matthew 24. Here, Jesus is making a clear prediction of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Between 67 and 70 AD, a great war engulfed Judea. There were competing Jewish messiahs battling the Romans. We read their exploits and defeat in the writings of Josephus. Because they knew the prophecy of Jesus about the end of the Jewish revolt, the Christians fled Judea for the area across the Jordan.
Third, when Jesus returns, you won’t need some decoder ring to figure it out. All humankind will be witness to His coming in glory. As another passage says, it will be like the lightning you can see from one horizon to another.
And, lastly, the return of Christ will be done in God’s good time, a time we will not be able to predict. That should save you some cash you might otherwise throw away on Amazon. The Lord is in control, even when we can’t see His hand at work. God loves His Church; Jesus will return to claim His Bride at the proper time, and there will be no doubt of His coming. No rapture of the “real Church,” no millennium, just the return of the Lord Jesus and the Last Judgement.
Now for the real business we came to do today–converting our hearts and becoming more like Jesus and His Mother, Mary. Let’s listen to Saint Paul. He gives us a kind of program for our life. The saints are still praying for us, as Paul did for his churches. They are praying that we will know and understand God’s will for us. This prayer is always effective. God’s general will for us is clear: we are to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. The practical details become clear for us as we grow in faith, hope and charity.
The result is that we lead a life “worthy of the Lord.” That means we live a life as Jesus would live. You, and you, and you, and I are called to be Jesus in our daily lives. That is how we please Him. Through reading the Scriptures, and books written by folks whose first name is “Saint,” we gain knowledge. By applying the great commandment, we bear fruit as people see and hear us and want to have the same spirit we share. They look at us and our pains and struggles and see that we endure it all with joy. They see us patiently waiting, sometimes for years, for enemies to come around, for estranged relatives to return, for those who have fallen away to repent. More than anything, they are staggered by our ability to give thanks in all circumstances.
This is Paul’s program for our lives. It is, frankly, the only way we can be happy. So let us pray, as we give thanks after communion, with the words of the Church: that whatever in our minds and hearts refuses to be loving, to be sharing, to be joyful, whatever disease afflicts our spirits may be cured by the healing work of the sacrament we shall soon receive.