Monday, May 16, 2011

Nobody knows when the Lord will return - On Faith - The Washington Post

Nobody knows when the Lord will return - On Faith - The Washington Post

In the Catholic Faith, we teach that the Lord Jesus, as he said, is coming back to earth on a day that nobody knows. That day of his return will mark the end of the world as we know it now, but in the positive sense that he comes to fulfill the salvation of humanity and to renew and purify this world, ushering in the fullness of eternal life. That day will see the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, when good and evil will be definitively separated.

While there are clear signs that the Lord indicated about his coming, such as a final assault of evil upon good, those signs are not described in such a way that lends itself to precise calculation of years and dates. The Church always looks skeptically at precise predictions. Again, the Lord himself said that nobody knows the day or the hour (Mark 13:32).

Until that day does come, Christians live in this world and await the world to come. . St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “We have our citizenship in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). On the night before he died, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one” (Jn.17:15). Faith calls us to be, at the same time, citizens of heaven and citizens of earth. Blessed John Paul II wrote, “Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of “new heavens” and “a new earth” (Rev 21:1), but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today. I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millennium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n.20).

This is one of the most practical and important lessons in Catholic spirituality, and is often summed up succinctly in the phrase, “in the world but not of the world.” But why is it that the one who awaits the world to come should not just sit and wait? Why is our effort to improve this world not what a Jehovah’s Witness once told me, “like washing windows on the Titanic?”

The reason is beautifully explained in Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), n. 39. While we are not to confuse earthly progress with the growth of God’s Kingdom, we are also not to see them as disconnected. Through our cooperation with God’s grace, we are able to bring about some good in this world. We can work for a more just society, for racial reconciliation, for better working conditions, and for the defense of unborn children. We can elect public officials who respect life and work for peace with justice.

The full flowering of God’s Kingdom is not in an endless increase of these fruits of our labor; it is, rather, in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. At every Mass we say,“We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior.” Yet when He does come, the good we have worked for on earth will not disappear. Rather, it will be taken up and purified by Christ,, and made into a lasting element of the world to come.

The prayers of each Mass help us avoid the two extremes of thinking we build heaven on earth, or just sit back and wait for heaven to replace earth. At the offertory we pray,“Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made, it will become for us the Bread of life.” In other words, we don’t make the Body of Christ, but we do make the bread. We don’t sit back and wait for the Body of Christ to be dropped on the altar from the sky. Rather, we present to God the work of human hands, and then his Spirit transforms it.

Similarly, we work to renew the earth, and his Spirit transforms the fruits of our work at the end of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment