The End of Time
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
"Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master's return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."
Then Peter said, "Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?" And the Lord replied, "Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master's will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."
If the tenor of the various apocalyptic movies from recent years, the news coverage of the supposed Mayan end-time prediction back in 2012, or the general atmosphere of fascination with, and terror of the Book of Revelation is any indication, we fear the second coming of the Lord Jesus at the end of time. When we read passages like those in this Sunday's Gospel, in which we are told, "You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come" (Lk 12:40), we can certainly tremble and find in those words no little discomfort. Indeed the Lord does instruct us to watch carefully for his return with the stern warning that those servants who are not prepared at his coming will have to face punishment for their infidelity.
Yet, while for a worldly heart, fear might be the response to the final appearance of God, how should a Christian heart respond? The Lord wishes us to be prepared and watchful, but does he want to find us cowering in fear when he returns? Certainly not. At the beginning of this Gospel passage, in its long form, Jesus tells us: "Do not be afraid . . . for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom" (Lk 12:32.)
Could anything be more consoling? The Father wants to give us the kingdom. How do we know? Because he "did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us" (Rom 8:32). Because he wants to adopt every person as his own rightful heir by joining each one to his son in baptism. He wants us to be one with Jesus, so that when he looks at us, he sees the face of his son, and when he hears us ask for mercy, he hears the voice of Christ who never sinned. We know because he feeds us with divine flesh in holy Communion, is always prepared to forgive us when we repent in confession, and provides us innumerable help in Mary, the saints and angels. He reaches out to us in ways we will never know until eternity, all out of a burning and all-conquering desire to bring us safely home at the end of time.
So why do we fear meeting him?
We may fear for many reasons. Perhaps we have believed the lie of the devil, that God does not really want us to come to him, and would rather not give his help. Perhaps our conscience reminds us that we are still in our sins, and thus not ready to go with the Lord when he returns. Perhaps we have come to love this world too much, along with its little comforts and entertainments, and have forgotten that all these are surpassed or fulfilled in heaven. Perhaps we fear the trials that we know will come before the glorious end.
Whatever the reason, the remedy is the same. We must remember what Christ has taught our souls. We must remember that God is a good Father, whose desire is to bring us into his home and give us a divine inheritance with Jesus. We must remember that sins and wrong attachments to possessions, honors, or any worldly things, only cheat us out of what we really desire, and are simply never worth the trouble. We must remember that no sin is more powerful than a good and honest confession. And we must remember that God will provide all the help necessary for every trial until we make it safely home.
With hears strengthened by this faith, we can be fund at the end not only watching, but watching with expectant joy for the moment when Our Lord comes back to set all things right.
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