To some, the end is something to fear. To some, and these are those I'd like to become one of, the end is something to embrace with joy. And to most, the end is something to ignore, to push off, to simply not think about or, particularly of late, to make jokes about.
But the end is inevitable.
Fr. Powell speaks to this end in the light of this first day of Advent, this first day of the Church's New Year, with words I think we should read and inwardly digest:
Of course, the world has been ending since it started. The Last Day of creation set with the First Day's sunrise. Can you count the number of world-ending scenarios you have lived through? For me: Soviet communism, DDT poisoning, acid rain, nuclear winter, HIV/AIDS, the new ice age, global suffocation from deforestation, flu pandemics, “dirty bomb terrorism,” worldwide economic collapse, and global warming—all secular apocalyptic scripts that narrate the reduction of our civilizations to utter ruin. Instinctively, it seems, we understand that as individuals and as a collective whole we will die. There will be an end. I will die. You will die. We might even die together. On a global scale, apocalyptic scenarios represent our individual anxieties about dying. Projected on the world-screen, these End of Days dramas are just one of the ways we humans play out our fear of dying. The trumpets of natural disaster, or nuclear annihilation, or environmental pollution blare from the four corners of the Earth, and we run around screaming, searching for some way—any way—to forestall our end. If the Church can be justly accused of using the bloody prophecies of Armageddon to frighten the vulnerable into submission to her influence, then we can just as rightly accuse the secular powers of using scientific prophecy to scare us into a slavery to fear. Does it matter if the prophets of global destruction are dressed in vestments or lab coats? Whether they use cryptic scriptures or equally cryptic “science”? Neither of these schools of prophecy preach the hope that Christ came give to us. Neither encourages us to wait faithfully in the expectation of the day of promise. Neither points us to the need to live in love with thanksgiving.
Does the inevitability of The End mean then that we can become complacent in our vigilance for the coming of the Lord? No, of course not. But if we are not to drown in worry and be surprised on the day of promise, we must understand that ours is a vigilance for the coming of Christ not a vigilance against our inevitable demise. As Christians, we have no fear of death. Death is dead. Yes, we will die. But we will not lie dead forever. Jesus is not warning the disciples against the coming end so much as he is telling them to live now as if he had come again already. When secular apocalyptic scenarios splash across the media, we are told that there are solutions, ways of avoiding the coming disasters. We are harangued and shamed into accepting power-grabbing schemes to save the planet. Jesus says no such thing to the disciples. There are no solutions. He says simply, “I will return. And here is how you will know I am coming. . .” The advent of his coming is always upon us. He has come; his is coming; and he will come again. These are not reasons to fear an end, but reasons to hope for Christ's inevitable rule.
When he states that as Christians, we have no fear of death, do you cringe? I cringe. Fear of death isn't something I think much of, fear of dying however is something that has caused me pause but at least I'm thinking about death and what lies beyond and how my life lived will affect that life beyond.
Yes, I look forward to the Lord's coming. Come Lord Jesus, come. But for my sake, for the sake of those I love who've yet to ponder deeply what lies beyond death's door, I'm more prone to say... Wait Lord Jesus, wait just a bit longer, because though I believe I'm preparing, I don't believe I'm prepared.
And I know that loved ones aren't prepared either.
Loved ones, you know who you are, make this Advent your season of preparation. Make this Advent your season of pondering the end, whether it be the end ushered in by Christ's return, or the end brought about by breathing your last breath.
Christ, for now, is waiting for you.
With arms open wide is what I hear.