There is an interesting story by Ernest Hemingway with the title “The End of Something.” It tells the story of a very busy lumber town called Horton’s Bay. The town is always agog with activities from morning to evening as the timber mill site work non-stop. One fateful day, the owners of the factory decided to move all the machines and workers to a new location. Suddenly, the former busy landscape became ghostly and silent as all other activities come to a dead end. Consequently, the town becomes deserted with no sign of the usual hustle and bustle.
The story goes on to narrate how two young lovers come to the town but could not recognize it at all. Only litters of sawdust heaps are visible in the open ruin. As they sail through the side of the lake facing Horton’s Bay in a boat, they recall with pity how it used to be a famous destination where daytime and night seamlessly interweaved. Facing this ruination where nothing seems to be alive, the young man pauses and tells the lady that he wishes to end their relationship because he could not find any fun in it anymore. The message comes as a big disaster for the lady who was already feeling sad about the end of Horton’s Bay. But here they go; the end of Horton’s Bay and the end of a relationship she cherishes. Finally, everything ends!
There is a familiar adage that says, “everything that has a beginning will have an end.” There is a time to come and a time to go says the Preacher. There is a time to start and a time to end whether we want it or not. We can, therefore, say that nothing is permanent. It is only in God that this logic becomes lame because there is no demarcation between the beginning and the end in God. For this reason, the book of Revelation (1:8; 22:13) tells us that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Furthermore, in the prophecy of Malachi (3:6), He says “I am the Lord I do not change.” He is the same yesterday, today and forever( Heb.13:8).
Is this world going to end one day? The answer is YES. The end of time is one phenomenon that is unsettling for many people. Many people are so troubled by it that they become paranoid. Some time ago we examined a list of failed predictions about the end of the world, but we don’t want to bother ourselves with that today. The truth is that the world would end, but nobody knows exactly when that will happen. The world began from God and would end in God. Hence God is the real end just as He is the ideal beginning. We ought to focus on God because the world belongs to Him and He alone would determine its end.
The first reading today from the prophecy of Malachi (4:1-2a) gives us an intriguing picture of the end. We learn that the day will come blazing like an oven that will have double effects. On the one hand, it will be a total annihilation for the proud and evildoers, and on the other hand, it will be a glorious moment for those who fear the name of God. Upon them, the sun of justice will shine with its rays of healing.
From this narrative, we understand that there are two types of people; those who are proud and do evil and those who fear the name of God. Everyone will receive a reward by this distinction. God always shows His love and mercy to those who fear His name. “Fearing the name of God” is another way of saying that one obeys Him (Ex.1:17). On the other hand, God detests the proud and evildoers (Psalm 5:5) because they do not obey Him.
The Gospel Reading (Luke 21:5-19) presents us with a more fearful description of the end of the world. Some people were profanely admiring the temple and all the beautiful accessories. They could have been so indulgent with the external elements of the temple that our Lord could no longer ignore their mundanity. He calls their mind to order and instructs them thus:
“All that you see here- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
This statement is a silent way of saying that there will be an end to everything including all the great and beautiful things of the world. The people expressed their amazement over what they considered impossible; that is the destruction of the temple. They then wanted to know the signs that will precede the end. At this point, our Lord gives another important instruction about deception:
“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”
In the next instruction, our Lord mentions that nations will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. There will also be earthquakes, famines, plagues and unusual sights from the sky. Furthermore, he mentions that all these will be preceded by persecutions, betrayals, and even subjection to death. The final instruction that will make sense to us says:
You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.
The fundamental truth from the First and Second Readings is that there will be an end of everything; even the temple. Above that, there will be destruction and salvation of souls. Let us make a simple analysis of a classroom situation. A teacher says that she is going to set an examination which anyone who reads very well would pass. When one passes, the individual gets promotion to the next class, but anyone who fails repeats the class. In this situation what should be the concern of a typical student in that class; reading well? The approaching examination? Failure or Success?
Most of us would agree that a serious student will be more concerned about reading well which will take care of the approaching examination and would ensure success. From the Christian life point of view, one could see that most people are worried about the end of the world instead of being concerned about living good Christian lives.
The above explains the instruction St. Paul gave the Thessalonians today in the Second Reading (2 Thess.3:7-12) about those who conduct their lives idly in a disorderly way. Only those who live disorderly lives are afraid of the end because they do not have good works to show. Those who live improper lives are scared of the destruction that will follow the end of time.
The liturgy of today is not meant to make us fearful about the end which will come at God’s own time. It is rather an invitation to us to continue to live good lives and bear good fruits. It is an invitation to us to persevere no matter the situation that may be confronting us. It is an invitation to us to know that everything will end but something will remain; namely our souls. It is an invitation for us to be like the good student who is more concerned about reading well than the fear of the approaching examinations.
It will be pertinent to mention that there are many people in our world today who are making a claim: “I am he!” just as our Lord Jesus Christ warned in the Gospel Reading today. It is also very pertinent to note that they are deceiving many people. “I am he” does not just mean they would answer the name Jesus Christ; it also means that they would assume the position of the Savior by making people believe that they can do all things; give all solutions to all problems.
As we gradually move to the end of another liturgical semester, let us ask God to give us the grace to be more concerned about living good lives and producing more deserving fruits than looking for sign and wonders especially about the end. The real end of everything is in God, and if we remain in Him we shall be saved!
Have a great Sunday and a successful week ahead.