The Chastisement, Revisited
I’ve had a number of responses to my recent article titled The Worst We’ve Had It. Apocalypse Now?. It seems that a few points from the article require some clarification—specifically for readers who thought I was being too flippant about a serious subject or that I might not have taken various points into consideration. I read all of your emails and responded to almost all of them. I hope that the following items provide some clarification of my position.
1.) The Church does not teach that there will be a “Chastisement” in its commonly known meaning, that there will be an Antichrist that can clearly be associated with a particular person or event, or that there will be a post-chastisement period of triumph that is anything other than the Last Judgment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church supports this in a section titled “The Church’s Ultimate Trial” (paras. 675-77).
2.) I cannot take into consideration—or accept as valid—prophetic statements made during apparitions that are not specifically sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Neither should any other prudent individual. To give a short example: Fatima, yes. Medjugorje, no.
3.) The Holy Father’s writings about his own place in history with regards to the timing of the Second Coming are to be respected and examined. The same thing applies to writings of saints, such as the Diary of Saint Faustina. Taking them either individually or together they could lead you to assume that the end times will be in the near future. But you could also argue that the apostles believed that the end times were imminent. How are we to weight these points against each other and come to a definite conclusion? For that matter, how are we to define “imminent”?
4.) Moreover, not even messages from approved apparitions, including the Third Secret of Fatima, require the assent of Faith, and none provide certain knowledge of the timing of a “Chastisement”. Though it would be wise to prudently consider all aspects of the Fatima messages, it is not incumbent on any Catholic that he places them on equal footing with Church doctrine.
5.) If you were to ask my personal opinion, I’d say that the signs of the end times are more than likely to go unnoticed by us—and that the form taken by any possible chastisement may well be terrors that we visit upon ourselves rather than fiery signs from above. But that’s my opinion. It is no more and no less valid than somebody who thinks that the signs will be (or are already) there for us to see. In fact, we might both be right. But my disagreement isn’t with people who think one way or another on this point. It is with people who fanatically connect the various statements of Scripture, Church teaching, and prophecy to try to narrow down the time that the “Chastisement” will occur.
6.) The type of people mentioned in point #5 might as well be called the “Cult of the Second Coming”. They spend time comparing the words of one prophecy to another, trying to align the events, trying to predict that their vision of the Chastisement will occur within a certain number of months, years, etc. Some of them have even advocated moving to certain “safe spots” in the U.S. and elsewhere to avoid the scourge of the chastisement—some actually have moved to such places.
But if you press them, they’ll admit that the best prediction that they can make for the coming of the Chastisement is “soon” – sometimes “very soon.”
To God, all times are soon, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis. “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
7.) I certainly agree that we shouldn’t ignore the words of Christ pertaining to this mystery. I’m aware that Christ himself spoke of the end times on many different occasions. But He also said that we know neither the day nor the hour, and that this knowledge is reserved specifically to the Father (Matt 24:26). That seems a strong case against attempting to figure out when and how the end times or the so-called Chastisement will occur.
In any case, my whole point is that Christ is already among us. Our number one priority should be to already possess Christ at the time of the Second Coming. If He is our friend, He will recognize us. It does us no good to know when He is coming if we have not already welcomed Him, loved Him, and allowed Him to make his dwelling within us! To people who have already accomplished this goal, I would think that the Second Coming would be eagerly anticipated but not anxiously looked for.
After all, why look for Christ if you already know where to find Him?
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