As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the Church focuses our attention on the end times. In our Gospel reading today, Mark 13:24-32, Jesus presents some scary realities about those last days of tribulation.
The sky will go dark. The sun and the moon will cease to shine. The stars will fall. The very heavens will be shaken. These are universal events, and they will be terrifying.
But Jesus is not telling us all this to scare us, but to make us aware that we might be prepared to meet these events of the end times.
For He is coming back. When the sky darkens and the heavens shake, those still living on earth will see Jesus coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will gather His faithful people to Himself. The old Heaven and earth will pass away, but the new Heaven and earth will arise. Those who have died in the Lord will experience a reunification of soul and resurrected body. Those still alive will be transformed. There will be no more death, no more pain and suffering, for those who are in Christ. What our lives will be like then remains a mystery, but we know that, if we are in a state of grace, we will be with God.
The question, then, is when? When will this happen? When will the end come? When will Christ come back? When will we receive our share in the resurrection?
The answer...we don't know. Jesus tells us that no one knows the day or the hour, only God. Those who speculate about the end, trying so hard to fix a firm date, are as clueless as the rest of us.
Careful readers may ask, “So if we don't know when the last days will arrive, how come Jesus says that 'this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place'”?
To understand Jesus' words here, we have to know something about the nature of prophecy, for Jesus is speaking prophetically. As Warren H. Carroll says in The Founding of Christendom, prophecy “telescopes time,” and often, prophecies refer to more than one event. In this case, scholars point out, Jesus is speaking not only about the end times but also about the destruction of Jerusalem, which for the Jews, was akin to the end of the world. Jerusalem was indeed destroyed within the generation of Jesus' hearers, for it was burned by the Romans in 70 A.D.
We know that the end will come. We know that Jesus will come back again in glory. We don't know when, but we must be prepared for this great event to arrive at any moment. How do we prepare? We must do the following:
1. Remain in a state of grace, in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, in which God dwells within our souls.
2. Receive the sacraments regularly, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, for these are prime sources of grace.
3. Pray, for this is the how we build intimacy in our relationship with Jesus.
4. Read the Scriptures; they are God's love letter to us.
5. Obey God's commandments, especially those that tell us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
6. Avoid sin so as not to risk our relationship with Jesus.
If we do these things with the help of God's grace, we will be prepared to meet Jesus if He comes in glory during our lives on earth or when He meets us face to face when we die. Then He will take us into His arms and carry us off to live with Him forever and ever.