Life consists of two vital points, namely, the beginning and the ending. Most of us are conversant with the age-long expression by Buddha that says, “everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that, and all will be well.” All our activities on earth naturally cascade into the beginning and ending time framework. The Book of Ecclesiastes (3:1ff) had these essential points about life in mind when it says that there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.
This last but one Sunday of the liturgical year invites us to pause and ponder on what constitutes the end of the world beyond the many claims and predictions from various religious and secular quarters about the final dismissal of earthly existence.
In the First Reading (Daniel 12:1-3), the apocalyptic prophecy of Daniel tells us about the vision of the end of the world. According to his account, a time of great distress would precede the events leading to the end when there would be a separation of the wise from the unwise in other words, the final judgment.
In the Gospel Reading this Sunday (Mark 13:24-32), our Lord presents a vivid picture of the end of time. Among other things, he tells us that before the Son of Man comes to gather the elect from the earth, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
These phenomenal and cataclysmic changes of the heavenly bodies relate to the time of distress in the vision of Daniel, and they could frighten one’s imagination. Consequently, there is a natural curiosity about the exact time when all these unusual things would happen to forestall surprises.
The worry and fret about the imminent end of the world may not be unconnected with part of our Lord’s statement in the Gospel today which says, “I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” Our Lord’s declaration here transcends every generation hence, “this generation” refers to every generation that receives the message. Therefore, our Lord was parabolic in the statement.
The last part of the Gospel today goes further to explain the earlier statement about “this generation.” The concluding part of the Gospel says, “but of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” If the end of time is known only to God the Father why do so many people follow the misleading messages of some many people and religious sects you propose end time dates?
The above statement is a clear indication that we gain nothing by searching for the time and day the world would end because the information is beyond human insight and knowledge. Instead of pummelling ourselves over the end of the time calendar, our Lord invites us to be open to learning not only from the fig tree but also from the things happening around us.
St. Paul was the first to confront this situation during the nascent stage of the Christian faith among the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:1-11). According to the apostle Paul, the day would come like a thief in the night, that is when nobody is expecting it. Consequently, he urged the Thessalonians to stay awake in the light of good living instead of walking in the darkness of sin and being caught unawares.
None of us witnessed the beginning of the world, and it makes no sense being overly curious about how it would end and the exact time. The most needful worry should be the nature of our relationship with God now, not when God would decide to click the eschatological button.
Just as every story has a beginning and an ending, the same is with our individual lives. Our lives started with God and ought to end with Him and at the designated time. A more productive reflection at this time should revolve around the question, “where will I spend my eternity?”. At some point in his ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ raised the question, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36). In another place, he recommends that we should seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and every other thing will be added to us (Matt. 6:33).
The liturgy of this Sunday invites us to take a moment out of our busy schedules and mundane distractions to reflect on the end of our lives, not the end of the world which would happen when God decides. For every one of us, the world ends when our lives cease. If you are reading this reflection, it means that your life has not stopped and you have all the divine graces to make your end a deserving and glorious one.
Have a beautiful Sunday and a glorious week ahead.