Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
2012 and that's it
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the Dec. 3, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
As the past millennium eased to a close, we increasingly heard in the media frequent reports about the end of time. The year 2000 breathed past us and we’re still here, nine years later!
Now we are getting the news of the “real thing.” Adapted to our contemporary way of measuring time, the ancient Mayan Calendar reveals the end of time – specific date: Dec. 21, 2012. Already people’s hearts are aflutter as this new of pending doom makes its way into table conversation, television commentary and even the movies.
Wars, insurrections earthquakes, floods, collapses of governments: the news repeatedly fills our ears and our eyes. Added to this list can be the increased evidence of the persecution of Christians around the world, the scores of alleged UFO sightings and alleged prophetic visions. Reading about these occurrences in the newspaper or watching their reporting unfold on evening news broadcasts gives us pause. Usually we shrug them off with a here-we-go-again roll of the eyes. But what, what if this time the Mayans have got it right?! Shudders of possibility make their course down the spine!
Yet any intelligent person with a minimal education in history realizes that these “signs” and measurements of time have been in abundance since the beginning of recorded human history. In reality, the turn of the millennium in 2000 merely added to their intensity. The turning of calendar pages does have its psychological effect, however, and makes us prone to read signs of the sure thing coming right around the corner.
When confronted with this kind of alarmist mentality, it is good to ask ourselves the question: So what? Should such news change my present behavior or cause me to make certain preparations? Those who seek to rattle us with the news of the end of time, I notice, still buy house insurance, still plan their New Year’s Eve parties for the coming year. They still make preparations for summer vacations and the college education of their grade-school-age children.
And, after all, haven’t we Christians been waiting for the Second Coming of Christ and the end of time for some eons now? At every Eucharist we Catholics still pray with uplifted, welcoming arms for its arrival – “As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ!” Sacred Scripture itself ends with the heartfelt prayerful invitation “Come, Lord Jesus.” It doesn’t read, “Stay away for a few more years while we find something useful to accomplish!”
Nowhere in Scripture or the Tradition of the Church is there any indication that the end of time can be measured on some cosmic clock or calendar. What was so special about the year 2000, for example? Students of history know that our contemporary measurement of time is off by four years because of calendar changes made in the Middle Ages. That means that the year 2000 – and with it, the supposed end of time – came two years before the panic caught up with us!
Yes, there are alarmists on radio and television these days who champion this day or that as the end of it all. (One such date passed without incident this past summer.) They even have chapter and verse of Bible quotes at the ready to support their case – except, of course, the passages in which Jesus says that the exact date and hour are known only to God, or the ones in which Jesus instructs his followers to not listen to those doomsday demagogues who (all by themselves) have God’s plan all figured out. History is filled with those who predict the end of time. They really came out of the closet at the close of the first millennium. And the hinges will begin to squeak again as Dec. 21, 2012 draws nigh. Just you wait!
Just shrugging off the doomsday crowd as a joke or ill-founded religious fantasy is not entirely the appropriate response. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does carry with it a sense of urgency – not the urgency of determined time and place for the end of all time, but the urgency that is characteristic of true discipleship with Jesus. Any one of us can laugh off the message of the prophets of doomsday and feel still secure in our convenient life styles. After all, the Christian community has been waiting nearly 2,000 years for the Second Coming, and it hasn’t happened yet. The odds are pretty good – so we think – that it won’t be happening in our lifetime. And our increasingly un-Christian life-style betray our ignorance and spiritual complacency.
The reality and quality of our discipleship with Christ is not determined by whether we affirm that this or that date is the end of time. Or if we maintain that this flood, that earthquake, this war or that vision is a genuine sign of the approaching end. At the same time there is an immediacy that is part and parcel of Christian discipleship. Discipleship is not an event that happens to you and me at some point in time. Discipleship is a personal relationship that is continually from the heart, the core of the person, each and every day. Now is the time of salvation, now is the time of discipleship.
Discipleship is a relationship which is rooted in a free, loving and personal choice. The true disciple cannot be scared into this kind of relationship any more than an engaged couple can be scared into marriage by an impending car wreck. A Christian cannot put off the discipleship question until some future date, place and time. The dialogue and invitation began with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives – even prior to our baptism. God speaks to every human heart and seeks to include everyone in the Kingdom. But dialogue is a two-way conversation. Discipleship is invitation-response. The response can be put off or not taken seriously – even until the end of time.
The end of time always comes more quickly than any one of us expects. A person’s life time is awfully short compared to the centuries and even millennia of waiting for some cosmic event to happen which lays claim to the followers of Christ. When we are dead there is no more time as we know it. The end of time has already come. The key question is the response to God we have made now – daily – as we engage in our dialogue of grace with God. We only fool ourselves into thinking that the question of discipleship or a relationship with God needs to be answered at some future time when Chicken Little’s heavens come crashing about our heads. In all likelihood, that cosmic event will not happen in our lifetime (if it does, so be it!). The question of life in Christ and a life-giving relationship with God, however, is a question which must be answered now. It can be avoided only at our spiritual detriment because without answering it, we are dead before we know it. And the wars, insurrections, floods, earthquakes and visions will continue.
(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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