This morning’s Gospel (Saturday, Nov.17,2018) ended with a powerful question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” That raises the question: When is the Son of Man coming? This Gospel just read, gives us the answer: “No one knows” – not the angels, not God the Son – only God the Father.
But, for almost as long as humans have populated this earth, persons decide they know more than the angels and God the Son. Predictions have abounded through the ages announcing the exact date of the end of the world.
In the United States, in the late 18th century, there was a wave of enthusiasm for such prophecies. One such prophet was William Miller whose teachings prompted the founding of the Jehovah Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists. Miller first predicted that Christ would return in 1842. When the world did not collapse, he revised the date to a year later. On that date over 3,500 followers jammed the Boston Advent Temple, only to be disappointed and it seemed the movement had petered out. But, it hadn’t; rather it continued to grow.
Miller recalculate his date to April of 1844. You can guess what happened, or didn’t happen. Undeterred by these failures, Miller postponed the date to October 1844. He and his followers, which had grown in number, began peddling white “ascension robes” to wear while waiting for the end of the world in freshly dug graves. The naysayers were denounced as agents of the devil.
Isaac Newton predicted the end of the world will occur in 2060, so we’ve a ways to go. And, today doomsday predictions continue. The latest end of the world prediction I found is that the end will begin in 2021 and be completed in 2028.
Now if everyone took heed of the Gospel we just heard, they would not have been taken in by any of the false prophecies. For Jesus in speaking about the Second Coming said: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Therefore, be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
Jesus doesn’t talk doomsday; He is giving us a prophecy of hope. He gives us a basic timeline to work with, BUT he doesn’t give us an exact time and date. His emphasis is clear that the date and time is not as important as how we consistently live our lives in the knowledge that our end on earth may be at any time. Jesus is His infinite knowledge doesn’t want anyone to misunderstand, and so he illustrates, as He does so often, with a parable.
He tells us: “Just like a tree shows signs in the spring that summer is near: look around, see signs that the end is coming.” Our hope is foundational in the belief that Jesus’ second coming will be a reality. Only the timing is a mystery. A person who has been told they are terminally ill may know the time will be sooner rather than later. But, all of us better be working on being ready for Jesus coming.
A story is told about John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was working in his garden one day when a neighbor asked him, “What would you be doing righty now, John, if you knew for certain Jesus would return today?” Wesley calmly replied, “I would go right on doing what I’m doing.” May we all have that attitude – that Christ could return at any time and we would be comfortable being caught doing whatever it is we happen at to be doing at the time.
The end is coming – we know that for certain – As the words of one of our hymns reminds us: “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.” Our job in the time we have left on earth is to do just what Jesus said. It’s simple – Jesus gives us two tasks: 1) watch and 2) pray. An anonymous writer says: “A time is coming for all people when they will be either born again, or wish they had never been born at all.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving Celebration!