It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I feel fine.)
The last few weeks before the end of the church year feature ominous readings about the eschaton, that is, the end of the world. Listening to these readings can make one feel scared and concerned for the end of the world.
Instead of viewing the end of the world as an ominous thing, we are called as Catholics to view the end as an opportunity to be reunited with our loved ones and our great Creator. In the meantime, we should be sure to make amends with our neighbors and to cleanse ourselves of our sins through the sacrament of confession. After this, there is nothing else we can do but pray, wait and live our lives in service to God and his people.
Many preachers, books, and movies today portray the end of the world as a scary and fearful thing. I cannot help but think of the Left Behind series that was tremendously successful about 5-10 years ago. While these books were not based on any Biblical truths, they did bring some people into the faith and cause others to review their life and try to make positive changes in order to be in right relationship with God. However, more often they either created a fearful nature towards religion and the end of the world. An attitude of indifference arose as well, as many Christians began to believe that they would be safe due to their acceptance of God, as shown in the movie.
This reaction to end times is not helpful either: Christians are called to be always in a state of metanoia, that is, conversion. Accepting God cannot be a one-time deal, rather it must be an ongoing process, a choice that we must make every morning when we wake up. Perhaps, we did not live our lives as Christians yesterday; this does not mean we cannot repent today and strive to do better today on forward.
This call to conversion can be seen in nature as well. In the Northern Hemisphere, we become aware of the change in seasons; the dying of plants and the falling of leaves. As well, the days grow colder and shorter. This dying of the earth should cause us to think of our own mortality and what we need to change in order to be in right relationship with God.
This is the time to begin to prepare our hearts for the end of the world, and more proximately, the coming of our King Jesus at Christmas. The forthcoming season of Advent allows us to reorient ourselves; to prepare our hearts and create room for our Savior. Jesus is the way, the truth, and light, and he desires to be in relationship with us. He also comes into our world in our celebration of Christmas.
So we desire to better prepare ourselves during Advent this year. What can and should we do to prepare ourselves?
1. Recommit to attending mass and praying: The month of December can be a busy time of year, but it is more important in this frantic busyness that we take time to be with God. This time of year should not be so much about the superficial things like dinners, receptions, Christmas lights, trees and Santa, as about prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Whether one decides to give God ten minutes right away in the morning, or to redouble their efforts to make it to mass every Sunday in December, God will recognize and bless this effort.
2. Go to confession: The best way to right one’s relationship with God is to ask him for his forgiveness and love. Confession should be a healing experience; one in which a person gets rid of their baggage of sin and sorrow and receives God’s love and graces. Whether it has been 1 month of 10 years since your last confession, I exhort you to take advantage of the extra time slots that churches have during December.
3. Make small sacrifices to help others: Christmas has traditionally been a time when many people and families donate to a food bank, toy drive or other charity events. This is good, commendable, and necessary, however, one could challenges themselves to enter deeper into the spirit of charity by making sacrifices themselves. Whether a person chooses to abstain from eating out, buying coffee or doing some other little “splurge” or chooses to fast for a day, they able to better unite themselves with the suffering poor and those in need through this sacrifice. This is also a spiritually uplifting activity which is designed to bring one closer to God through the small experience of suffering that one has chosen. In this time when there is so much violence and horror going on in our world, I would encourage people to fast, to skip a meal in memory of all the refugees, and all those who live in a state of constant fear and suffering. In addition, a person could choose to give the money they saved by not eating, to a charity to help those in need.
4. Make amends with family and friends: Lastly, it is important to reconcile one’s self with any family or friends whom they have hurt. This is a great way to ensure a more peaceful Christmas gathering, but also a way to more open one’s heart to the coming of Jesus. When we can eliminate hard feelings and guilt from our soul, we are more open to God’s love.
While the end of the world may seem ominous and scary, living our lives in Christ and trusting him to provide for us will take away the fear and uncertainty. If we make the choice to trust our lives and future to Christ through renewing our commitment to prayer, almsgiving and acts of charity, we truly do not have to worry about the end of the world. We will then be able to truly sing, “It is the end of the world, and I feel fine!” with our whole heart.