Sunday, 29 November 2009

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C, Shaftesbury

Lk 21:25-28;34-36
A friend of mine told me that the world was going to end on the 20th of November –and she had it on good authority: she knew a friend who knew a friend who’d heard that a cardinal had seen a vision of this.
So I waited, went to confession, said my prayers, watched the news of the 19th for any indications, and… woke up on the 20th with nothing changed -and actually, that was 9 years ago in 2000 (in lots of Millennial angst).

It’s very easy to dismiss such prophecies, but it would have to be said that there is an increasing number of them these days. I think myself, that it may well be more likely that the End of the World will come in our lifetime, than it has been in previous centuries.

What if we compare what we see today in the world with what Scripture predicts for the end of time? In the scriptures we’re told there will be PHYSICAL signs like great floods, earthquakes, drought, maybe we could add pollution and the destruction of the environment. We’re told there will be SOCIAL signs, and we see a great breakdown in our modern society, family fragmentation, permissive sexual practices, and the toleration of things like abortion and euthanasia that would have horrified a more civilised people. Scripture also speaks of a Great APOSTASY that will precede the End, and maybe we see that around us too. As numerous Catholic and Anglican bishops have publically said, we’ve become an atheistic society, we’ve turned our backs on God.

We might also note what the great Pope John Paul II used to call the ‘acceleration’ of the pace of history, change being more and more rapid and dramatic. In viewing the whole pattern of history, it’s only reasonable to ask if this is an acceleration towards the final conclusion.

But, of course, none of these things automatically mean that the End is nigh. Many of these things have happened before,
But the central point that I want to make is that just because the End of the World and the Second Coming of Christ hasn’t happened in the last 2000 years doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen, and doesn’t mean that it won’t even happen very soon.

And regardless: for myself, if I die today, if I fall down the dangerously steep set of stairs in the presbytery, if I get hit by one of those cars or buses that recklessly speed past my front door, then for ME the End would be now. Are you ready? And what do we need to do to be ready?

We just heard Jesus tell us what to do when we see the signs of the End. He didn’t say “panic”, or “get really, really worried”. He said, “Stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand”. If we’re at one with the Lord, then we need not fear, because His Coming will be for our glory too.

But we need to ensure that we ARE at one with the Lord. He said, “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life”. If we would be ready, then we must repent daily, live virtuous lives, obey the Commandments, go to frequent Confession, and return to the Lord’s mercy as often as we find ourselves straying into sin. If we do, then we can, as He said, “stand with confidence before the Son of Man”.

Ever since the Fall of Man people have seen suffering and problems in the world around them. What our faith in the Second and Glorious Coming of Christ tells us is that there is a greater destiny that creation is moving towards. A destiny that is not of THIS world. When Christ comes as Judge, to separate the sheep and the goats, the saved and the damned, He will also come to make all things new. He the creator will come to re-create. He will make all things new, and there will be no more problems, no more disasters or pain. Then truly, if we are ready, we will find that our liberation is indeed at hand.

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