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Valerie SchultzDecember 01, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Find today’s readings here.

When I read today’s Gospel, I feel for the followers of Jesus who heard his warnings of impending doom in person. They must have thought: This is it. They were to be the last generation of humans on earth. They must have felt a bit cheated when they saw themselves entering old age when they saw their peers die off when they saw young families growing and thriving as though the world was not going to end any minute. They must have felt at loose ends.

I think of the folks who sold everything a few years ago and sat tight for the final countdown that had been predicted for whatever date in August, May or October that has long passed. How do you come back from that crushing disappointment, that your life is still your same old life past the promised expiration date, except now you don’t have your stuff? That miscalculation was costly.

The Rapture, the Apocalypse, the End Times, the Second Coming, Armageddon, Doomsday: A fatalist hubris makes us think that we are the ones who are going to see it. We can get caught up in the expectation of the literal fulfillment of prophecy. When my husband was the vice principal at an elementary school, a third grader came to his office at the end of a school day. Hysterically crying because his mom hadn’t picked him up yet, the poor kid was sure his mom had been “raptured.” He was inconsolable until my husband said, “Well, wait a minute, I’m still here,” which somehow calmed the boy’s fears. A phone call located his mom, who was still very much among us.

The Rapture, the Apocalypse, the End Times, the Second Coming, Armageddon, Doomsday: A fatalist hubris makes us think that we are the ones who are going to see it.

These readings can inflate our dread as well as our arrogance.

Not to make light of Daniel’s dire vision, or Jesus’s description of the messy end of the world as we know it, but I think our focus ought to shift a little. Yes, life is not guaranteed. Yes, my world could end tomorrow, at the business end of a bus or the Second Coming. I don’t know. I can’t know. I suspect the not-knowing is the beginning of faith.

“Know that the Kingdom of God is near,” Jesus tells us. That’s all we know. Instead of obsessing over the beasts and the mayhem, maybe we need to go about the more mundane work of bringing the Kingdom of God nearer in the time we have, which is only today. Right now. We can’t control the terrible plagues and disasters, the tyrannies and tsunamis, the wars and injustices that happen all the time. But we can take them on trust, as reminders to be ready to let it all go when the fig tree’s buds burst open, when our time is ripe, whenever God calls us home.

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