As we draw near to the end of our liturgical year, the Church calls on us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Our Lord. Scripture speaks of the return of Jesus and the final Day of Judgement, and while these end time writings speak of many trials and tribulations, ultimately the message is always one of hope in God’s love and mercy.
Through the centuries, there have been numerous prophecies about the end of the world and when and how it might occur. Second century Montanists1 predicted that Jesus would return sometime during their lifetime. Similarly, today’s “2012 Phenomenon” would have us believe that “doomsday” will arrive on December 21, 2012, the date that marks the end of the Mayan calendar. Other proposed end-of-the-world dates have been calculated to coincide with everything from the alignment of planets (Dec. 17, 1919 – Albert Porta) to the 7000th anniversary of the great flood of Noah’s time (May 21, 2011 – Harold Camping). Whether rooted in a fear of the unknown or in a desire to control our own destinies, each of these prophesies ignores an important fact: We do not know when Jesus will return to earth, nor can we predict the day when the world will come to an end. Jesus himself taught, “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:32).
What Scripture does tell us is that before Jesus returns to Earth, the Church will pass through a final time of trial that will shake the faith of many believers.2 Wars, famines, and earthquakes will only be the start of our sufferings (cf. Mk 13:7-8). The Gospel must be preached throughout the world (cf. Mk 13:10), yet those who share the message of God’s love with others will be hated and will suffer many persecutions (cf. Mk 13:9-13). We will be tempted to abandon our faith by false teachers (cf. Mk 13:5-6) who will offer us an apparent solution to our problems.3 The peace and happiness that they promise cannot possibly be realized in this passing world but only in eternity through the mercy of God.4
What can we do to be ready? Our Lord’s advice is simple: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come” (Mk 13:33). If we persevere to the end, God promises that we will be saved (cf. Mk 13:13). Through the eyes of faith, the end of the world is something that we can look forward to, something in which we can place our hope. God’s triumph over evil will mark the end of all our sufferings. It will be a time of great rejoicing, for “God himself will be with [us]; he will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:3-4).
– Sharon van der Sloot
1Montanism was an early Christian heresy that was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D.
2 CCC, 675.
4 Cf. Ibid, 676.