The Worst We've Ever Had It. Apocalypse Now?
For about the past 10 years I’ve been following Catholic world events with some interest. And throughout that period I’ve heard some Catholics—priests, religious, leaders of lay apostolic organizations, and even a few of my friends and acquaintances—claim that the “end is near.” Why? Because, in a nutshell, ”this is the worst we’ve ever had it.”
And by this, they mean that abortion, euthanasia, contraception, homosexuality, war—the general morass that is modern civilization—represent the type of behavior that will not long be tolerated by the Divine Savior. These end-timers would want me to believe that the Chastisement is imminent. So if three or more natural disasters occur in the world simultaneously, keep your eye out for fire from the heavens.
History Indicates a Cultural Decline
Events and trends over history would indicate that the Church’s cultural influence was at its peak around 1300, and since then that influence has been in decline. So if you looked purely at world events, you could certainly take the perspective that we are standing square in the face of the most morally bankrupt generation ever.
However, you can’t use a crisis of Christian culture, even a grave crisis, as a litmus test for gauging the proximity of the end times.
Every Era Looks for Christ
The Church has always faced persecution, and each era has presented its own string of challenges. For example, the early Church was persecuted in horrendous fashion and was nearly torn asunder by heresies to the point where the kernel of the Faith threatened to disappear from the planet. The corrupt Roman Empire was falling into pieces while barbaric tribes threatened to destroy Christendom before it ever really got off the ground.
The crisis facing the Church at that time was arguably every bit as grave as the crisis that we are facing today. And yet, strangely the Second Coming did not occur at that time.
If we are to gauge the proximity of the chastisement from the magnitude of offenses against Christ, then hindsight pretty much indicates that Easter Sunday was the odds-on-favorite for the Final Judgment rather than just the Resurrection. We crucified Christ, and yet strangely, the world did not end.
Good men will look for the coming of Christ in every era. But even though Scripture gives us some clues as to what type of events might lead up to the Second Coming, you could make significant arguments that those criteria have been met on more than one occasion over the past 2000 years. And yet, strangely the Second Coming did not occur at those times.
How to Find Christ
The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the Coming. But she does not encourage us to do this by reading headlines, following the latest scandal, or even through cultural studies. Primarily, our Mother encourages us to look for Christ through the window of the heart, and to make sure that He is welcome there.
This encouragement is particularly apparent during the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent. In Advent the joyous expectation that we are to cultivate is more than a buildup for the celebration of Our Lord’s birthday. It is a preparation to give a new birth to Christ in our hearts, and directly corresponds to the anticipation of the Second Coming. Lent is not entirely dissimilar. We die to ourselves through prayer, fasting and almsgiving to prepare not just for this Easter in time, but for the day when we shall rise with Christ.
Jesus Tells Us to Look for Him At Home
In a word, we are called to conversion. “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Please note that Jesus did not say that we were to watch out for earthquakes or the anti-Christ. He meant, “Watch yourself.”
This is why I fear for those who position themselves as what I like to call Champions of the Chastisement. Many tend to take a self-indulgent, cheerleading stance for what they are convinced will be a time when we’ll see who’s who and what’s what. Many claim that they have found a place to be safe during the chastisement, which is just about as presumptuous as you can get. (One such location is in my home state of Virginia—but not too close to Washington, DC! We all know that DC is going to be the first to burn.)
My point is that these people are not acting in the spirit of Christ. First, because the argument that “even though we can’t know the exact time we can get a clue about approximately when it will occur” is utterly groundless. Second, because championing the chastisement has nothing to do with how the Church says we should “watch” for the coming of Christ.
Are the End Times Near?
Make no mistake—nobody knows the time or the place of the chastisement, or what form it might take, or even whether there will be a Chastisement (with a capital “C”) at all. But if we are trying to assess the time that we have left by observing this corrupt generation, the watch we first have to keep is over ourselves. And once that’s done, I sincerely hope that nobody is standing on the sidelines cheering the coming chastisement.
I know I won’t be—because much will be required of him to whom much is given...and I can’t always remember where I’ve buried my talents.
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