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Why Do We Fear The End Times?

As we approach the end of the liturgical calendar, with Advent just around the corner, the Church in her infinite wisdom presents us with readings about the End Times. Although most are from the Book of Revelation, we even read of Christ taking on this uncomfortable subject in the Gospels (i.e.: Lk 21:5-11). Hopefully, priests around the world are addressing the subject, although it has been my experience in the past that many don’t want to broach a topic that will make the congregation squirm in the pew. A while ago a colleague shared with me that she had walked out on the Sunday homily. According to her, the homilist was making too many dire links between the readings and current events – wondering out loud if we were living out the End Times.

Granted, as the liturgical year winds down, and the last few weeks of Ordinary Time begin to point towards Advent, the Church’s readings do begin to get more apocalyptic in nature. With readings of recrimination from a variety of prophets (Nehemiah, Jonah, Ezekiel and Isaiah) – the outlook can be less than rosy. I have to admit, though, that the more I read from the Old Testament prophets and their call for the world to turn away from a life of sinful debauchery or face the consequences, the more I too see parallels in the ways of the contemporary world and wonder: are we hurtling towards the final judgment?

I guess this wasn’t the message my colleague wanted to hear.

To be quite honest, I doubt whether the prophets’ message of doom and gloom, sackcloth and repentance, fire and brimstone, is one that anybody wants to hear. That’s probably why they usually ended up dying a martyr’s death at the hands of the people God sent them to.

This got me to wondering… Why do so many fear the End Times?

Really, the more I think about it, the more I realize that we should be rejoicing if the End Times are actually upon us. What a privilege it would be to be among the select few to witness the second coming of Christ. To be among the living at the Resurrection on the Last Day; and hopefully with God’s grace among those raised into the New Jerusalem.

And it is at this point I begin to wonder if I have hit the nail on the head… many of us are afraid that we won’t make the cut; that we will fail this final exam; that we will be found wanting before the eyes of God. I suspect that one of the reasons that we fear the Final Judgement is that we already have a pretty good idea of where we stand before God – we know His love, and we know we have rejected it. If the End Times are near, and the Final Judgement is upon us, most of us know we need more time to cram for the exam.

So how did we get here? How did we manage to get to a point where we no longer look to the second coming with joyful anticipation?

In a word: complacency.

When the rich official was downcast that Jesus told him to sell off all his worldly goods to become His disciple to have treasure in heaven, Christ explained to the young man: “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Lk 18:24-25)

For those of us blessed with the abundance of life in the Western World (Europe and North America), we have become soft; we have grown complacent. Since we can obtain pretty much whatever we want and cater to our every whim, in many ways we have become God to ourselves. What do we need God for, when we can shower ourselves with blessings?

The problem is, since we are creatures (and not the Creator), the only blessings we can offer ourselves are of creation, things of the flesh: food, drink, shiny objects and sex. As St. Paul tells us, these things of the flesh will only lead us to death (cf. Rom 8), and we know it. Too often we have enjoyed the things of this life to excess and ignored God. Too often we have revelled in the flesh and not in the Spirit. We have rejected God’s love and not only are we afraid of the consequences, but we are saddened at having offended Him.

Now is the time to “turn away from the wickedness they {we} have committed and do what is lawful and right, {so} they {we} shall save their {our} life.” (Ez 18:27 {my additions for context})

In turning away from sin and back towards God, we will no longer have to fear the End Times, and once more as disciples of Christ we can joyfully look forward to His return in Glory.

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