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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (APOCALYPSE 14:14-19)

TODAY’S BIBLE READING (APOCALYPSE 14:14-19)

Last Week of the Year, Cycle II, Tuesday 

Harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.

In my vision, I, John, saw a white cloud and, sitting on it, one like a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the sanctuary, and shouted aloud to the one sitting on the cloud, “Put your sickle in and reap: harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Then the one sitting on the cloud set his sickle to work on the earth, and the earth’s harvest was reaped.

Another angel, who also carried a sharp sickle, came out of the temple in heaven, and the angel in charge of the fire left the altar and shouted aloud to the one with the sharp sickle, “Put your sickle in and cut all the bunches off the vine of the earth; all its grapes are ripe.” So the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger.

V. The word of the Lord. R. Thanks be to God.

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“THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO MEET US AND KINDLES FAITH IN US”

“On … Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, let us prayerfully reflect on some of the words contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Holy Spirit.

‘The HOLY SPIRIT comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.’ (Section 683).

‘The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these ‘end times’, ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognised and welcomed in a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’ (section 686)

The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

• In the Scripture he inspired;

• In the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are already witnesses;

• In the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;

• In the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us in communion with Christ;

• In prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;

• In the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;

• In the signs of apostolic and missionary life;

• In the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation (section 688).”
– From “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris” (June 2014)

 

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“THE HISTORY OF MAN ON EARTH IS THE STORY OF GOD’S SEARCH FOR MAN AND MAN’S SEARCH FOR GOD”

THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF FREE WILL

“If there is any point to our story it is this: Man was made for God, man the individual and man the social being. The history of man on earth is the story of God’s search for man and man’s search for God. It is a story of struggle and of conflict. This is because God in His generosity gave man the precious gift of free will. He sought man’s love, but He wanted it to be given to Him freely. Unfortunately for man, under the influence of Satan, a fallen and angelic spirit, man forsook God for God’s creature, the world. This deriliction from God caused man to fall from the high order of nature and grace in which God had established him, to fall victim to his natural ties to the world of space and time in which God had placed him. Like the man who cannot see the forest for trees, fallen man is more prone to see the infinite variety of the goods and pleasures of the created world than he is to see the great and good God Who has made the world for man and for himself.

ONCE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE ONE TRUE GOD HAD ALMOST VANISHED FROM THE MIND OF MAN

In the course of centuries (how many we shall probably never learn in this present world) the knowledge of the one true God almost vanished from the mind of man. Men debased such gods as they worshipped to the likeness of the world or of themselves. So they worshipped the sun or the stars, lions, bulls or wolves, or gods made in the likeness of man, adulterous gods like Jupiter, lying and thieving gods like Mercury, gods voracious of human sacrifice like the Baalim of Canaan or the gods of the Aztecs.

TO PREPARE THE WORLD FOR HIS SON, THE REDEEMER, GOD BUILT UP TO HIMSELF A CHOSEN PEOPLE

But though man might desert God, God would not desert man. In the fullness of time He sent His own Son to redeem man from ignorance and iniquity. To prepare the world for His Son He built up to Himself a Chosen People among whom His Son would appear. From Abraham to Malachias [Malachi] God progressively revealed Himself and His intentions for mankind to His Chosen People. His message was not always received with generosity and understanding. But His Chosen People did come to accept Him for what He was, the one true God. By their dispersion among the peoples of the Middle East and the Roman Empire they helped to prepare the world for the coming of God’s own Son. In due time God’s Son became man and entered human history as Jesus the Christ. To save men from ignorance and error, to introduce them to the inner mysteries of God’s own Being and God’s loving intentions for mankind, Jesus revealed to the world the great doctrines of the Trinity of Persons in the one God and the Incarnation of the Second Person (Himself) for the redemption of men. His whole doctrine, as well as the treasury of divine grace which He won for men by the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross as an expiation for the sins of all men, He bequeathed to His kingdom, His Church. Since that time He works in the world in and through His Church, which is His Body, one with Him in the grace of God, for the building up of the final Kingdom of God which shall exist for all eternity. The kingdom will consist of all those who have received and retained the grace of God given them through and by Jesus.

THE POWERS OF HUMAN DISCERNMENT ARE RESTRICTED

It is the task of historians, the artists or scientists of human history to seek the causes of human history. But their powers of discernment are restricted to the proximate causes of human history. At best they can perceive only the human and sub-human factors which direct or influence the course of history. So is it that historians will tell us that families or nations or empires, civilisations and cultures, are born, grow and decline because of the ambitions of individuals or families or nations, because of the accidental talents of great men, because geography, climate or economic factors overwhelm a people or spur them on to great achievements. In these days of Freudianism and depth psychology they may even tell us that civilisations grow, flower or decline because of the neuroses and psychoses, inherited or acquired, of their great men or people.

NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

Now it cannot be denied that historians have a founded right to seek out these possible proximate causes of human history, and to some extent – how great only subsequent history and historians may be able to tell – to describe the causes underlying the particular achievements or failures of human cultures and civilisations. But to the extent – and this is important, indeed – that the tools they employ, human reason, language, science and natural philosophy, cannot make them aware of the great designs of God which truly underlie all history, they cannot describe for us the ultimate cause of history. For true history – history in the sense of the true meaning of human existence, the true plan or plot which is being woven throughout the existence of this human race – not merely a story of man’s natural achievements and failures since he came to exist here on earth.

‘GOING AROUND IN CIRCLES’?

If man’s story were merely the story of purely natural human achievement, then perhaps those men were right in the pagan world of Greece and Rome who thought that everything happened by necessity, and that everything repeated itself, whole civilisations coming into being, flourishing, dying and then later coming into existence again and repeating everything all over. Or perhaps the modern atheistic existentialists are right when they say that human nature has no meaning at all, no true history, for there is no end to the story, and man is doomed to struggle for as long as the race lasts with no hope of achieving any real destiny.

IN THE ‘SCIENTIFIC’, PESSIMISTIC VIEW MAN IS DOOMED FOREVER TO THE RECURRING MONOTONY OF ENLESS REPETITION, TO MEANINGLESS FRUSTRATION

In the old pagan view of cosmic renewals man was held prisoner in the recurring cycles of history, doomed to the recurring monotony of endless repetition. In the modern pessimistic view man is doomed forever to meaningless frustration. But it is one of the functions of Jesus the Christ, the Revealer of God to man, in fact God incarnate or revealed to man, to save mankind from intellectual or emotional errors of this kind. For as Jesus has told the world, God became man in order that men might truly become as God. Deceived by the devil, Adam and Eve sought to become godlike by their own efforts, without God’s assistance. Because of this presumption they lost the divine grace which alone made them truly godlike. But in Christ Jesus this grace is restored to men; in Christ Jesus men can again become like God. This is one of the inner meanings of the message of Jesus. Through grace men can escape from cyclic repetitions, from eternal frustration, from the limitations of time and space. Through grace men can come to participate in the very eternity of God Himself. In this way not only can individuals have a true meaningful history in that there is a true end to their story but all men, as a social unit, in the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church, can have a true end, a true destiny, a final destiny independent of time in the eternity of God. God, Who is eternal, in Christ has entered the world of time, so that man, who is by nature a creature of time, may enter eternity and find therein his true meaning.

JESUS CHRIST ALSO CAME TO SAVE MANKIND FROM INTELLECTUAL ERRORS

At death each man enters eternity. If he has rejected God through his own free will, he enters the false eternity of hell. If he has accepted God, he enters the true eternity of God. At the end of this world all mankind will have entered eternity: the false eternity of hell or the true eternity of the final Kingdom of God. As Jesus Himself has told us, at the end He as the Judge of all mankind will separate the good from the wicked. The wicked will be condemned forever to the pains of hell which was created for the devils. The good will enter the kingdom, the heaven which God created for those who freely love Him.

OVERCOMING THE RAMIFICATIONS OF TIME IN THIS LIFE

What hell and heaven may be we know only in part. Like all real endings to unfinished stories their true dimensions can only be surmised in the tantalising phrases, ‘They lived miserably ever after,’ or ‘They lived happily ever after.’

But thanks to the revelations of Jesus, a few aspects of these ultimate endings are known. Hell is the false ending to the story of man; heaven is the true ending. Now it might well be asked how any story could have a false ending or two endings, one false and one true. A literary critic judging a romance or a novel might well say that the novel had a false ending. He would mean that the author gave his story an ending which was not in accord with the nature and character of the people in the story, or an ending which did not flow from the conjunction of the people involved and the circumstances in which they found themselves. For such a critic the true ending of a story would be one which flowed either naturally or necessarily (or both) from the characters in the story and the circumstances of their lives. The true ending, he would say, is inevitable; neither the author nor the characters he creates can escape this inevitable ending.

GOD INTENDS ALL MEN TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

When we speak, then, of a true and a false ending to the story of mankind we are not using. These terms in precisely the same way as the literary critic. By a false ending to the story of man we mean an ending which God, the principal author of the stry, did not primarily intend. God intended all men to enter the kingdom of heaven. But, as the story turns out, some do not; they enter instead the eternal frustration of hell. To the extent that hell represents their own free rejection of God, it is the true, the inevitable end to their story. But since it is opposed to God’s original intention, it is also a false end to their story. On the other hand, the true end to God’s story is the kingdom of heaven. Heaven, from this point of view, represents man’s free loving acceptance of the love of God, and so it is truly the end of the story.

HELL REPRESENTS MAN’S OWN FREE REJECTION OF GOD; HEAVEN REPRESENTS MAN’S FREE LOVING ACCEPTANCE OF THE LOVE OF GOD

Now the story of mankind has two endings, one wholly true and one false, for a very important reason. It is this: the main line of the story is not one of necessity, of inevitability, but one of freedom. This is one of the great inspiring meanings of the Incarnation, the coming of God to the human race in the Person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate among men. God, by His decision to create man, freely chose to write the story of mankind. By His decision to create man free, He freely chose to make man co-author of the story. Because man is basically free, the working out of the story is not governed by absolute necessity. God would prefer that all men should find their happy ending in the kingdom of heaven. But through their freedom men are also the co-authors of the story, and therefore, as God Himself foreknew and has told us, there will be two endings to the story, heaven and hell, the heaven which He has freely willed for all men, and the hell which some men will freely choose as their own ending.

THE STORY OF MANKIND IS BASICALLY A STORY OF FREEDOM AND THE USE OF FREEDOM

The story of mankind is basically a story of freedom and the use of freedom: the freedom which God used to create man free; the freedom which the devil used to induce man to desert God; the freedom which man used to choose or reject God; the freedom which Adam used to reject God for himself and the whole race of man; the freedom which God used to become man in order to induce man to return to Him; the freedom which men have used, are using or will use to work out the remainder of the story.

BECAUSE MAN IS FALLEN, MAN IS INCLINED TO ALLOW HIS SPIRIT TO BE FETTERED BY THE NECESSITIES OF MATTER, SPACE AND TIME

To say that freedom is the basic cause of human history is not to deny all value to those proximate causes which the historians patiently discover in the texture and pattern of human historical existence. It is true that geographic and climatic factors, that psychological and economic factors, influence the course of human events. It may even be true that in some cases these factors may prevent the proper use of human freedom and men may find themselves carried along almost helplessly by the stream of events.

If human civilisations and cultures seem to rise and fall according to some natural and inevitable rule or law of human behaviour; if, for example, as some say, civilisations rise because men are faced with a challenge to survive, and decline because in their prosperity they no longer have a real challenge and so grow weak, this is not because man is not free, but because free man is subject to the limitations of matter, of time and of space. Though his spirit, his soul, is free, it is still a spirit immersed in the world of matter, time and space. And, because he is fallen, man is inclined to allow his spirit to be fettered in its essential freedom by the necessities of matter, time and space.

MAN CAN USE HIS FREEDOM TO ESCAPE THE NECESSITIES OF MATTER, TIME AND SPACE

But, as Jesus has told us, man is still free, and he can use his freedom to escape the necessities of matter, time and space. His story is not limited to the horizons of time and space. In and by his free spirit man can transcend the physical necessities of time and space and reach the untrammelled freedom of the Kingdom of God. It is true that at times the natural currents of human history, currents caused by economic, geographical or natural psychological factors, may seem to swamp man’s freedom. But this is true only in appearance. If men are swept along by such currents it is because they weakly choose to be swept along. If they would, they could freely choose to stand against the current. This is what the Christian martyrs did; this is what all true followers of Christ can do.

MAN CAN RISE TO THE EXERCISE OF TRUE FREEDOM ONLY WITH THE AID OF GOD’S GRACE

But it is important to remember that man is fallen. His freedom is hampered by his fall, by his immersion in the inexorable flow of matter in time and space. He can rise to the exercise of true freedom only with the aid of God’s grace. But Jesus has won man this grace by His death on the Cross. It is for man to accept this grace freely, to use it freely to achieve the true ending of his story.

IT IS ETERNITY WHICH FINALLY GIVES MEANING TO TIME

Thus far in this chapter we have been speaking of the final end of man’s history, that final end which gives point and meaning to human history. Though man is a creature of time and space, the ending of his story is in eternity. Thus it is eternity which finally gives meaning to time.

‘HOW WILL IT ALL END?’

But there is another meaning to the word ‘end’ as applied to human history. By the ‘end’ of man’s story we may also mean its end, not in eternity but its end in time. And so, with the curiosity which lurks in every reader of or listener to a story, we may ask, ‘How will it all end?’ By this question we mean to ask such things as, ‘When will it end? How long has it to go? What events will mark its close?’

‘GENERAL OUTLINES, BUT NOT THE COMPLETE BLUEPRINT’

God Himself, when He spoke to men, knew that men would be naturally curious about this end of the story. He has told us something, but not all. He has given us general outlines, but not the complete blueprint.

The disciples of Jesus asked Him: ‘What shall be the sign of thy (final) coming and of the consummation of the world?’ (Matthew 24:3)

Jesus told them that the end of the world would be preceded by wars among the nations, by pestilences, famines and earthquakes, by the appearances of false Christs pretending to be Himself, by the general breakdown of morality, by the fact that His Gospel would have been preached to all the nations of the world, by tribulations greater than any from the beginning of the world, by the darkening of the sun and the moon and the falling of the stars from heaven. (Matthew 24:5-29)
SOME PEOPLE CLAIMED TO HAVE SEEN THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE RIDING IN THE SKY

St John the Apostle in his Apocalypse seems to portray the end of the world as coming after a gigantic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good. Mankind will experience plagues and pestilences, famine and war. For a time the forces arrayed against the Christ will overcome those faithful to Christ. But in the end Christ will triumph.

As was natural, in the course of time since Jesus spoke, men have attempted to determine the time of the end of the world from these foretold signs. Some of the earliest generations of Christians, as we can deduce from some of the things written by St Paul, thought that the world was coming to an end in their time. In the twelfth century Joachim of Flora, on the basis of the Apocalypse, thought that this present world would be replaced by a world of universal love under the Holy Spirit in the year 1260 A.D. From time to time, as mankind is afflicted by wars, famines and pestilences, there are some who pretend to see the fulfilment of the prophecies of Jesus or of St John. During the first great World War some people claimed to have seen the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (supposedly heralds of the end of time) riding in the sky.

‘FOR AS LIGHTNING COMETH OUT OF THE EAST…’

If we take a serious look at the world today, it would be a great temptation to identify our times with the time of the end of the world. We live in a time of wars, either cold or shooting, among the nations of the world. Millions of people are dispossessed and landless, living in destitution and famine. Millions of people have been slaughtered in concentration camps. Atomic and thermo-nuclear weapons threaten mankind with tribulations worse than any which have ever before afflicted mankind. The Gospel has been preached to some extent to all the nations of the world. In over half the earth the members of Christ’s kingdom [have been] marked and persecuted. Certainly this age, as much as any other in the history of mankind, might seem to be the age of the end of the world.

But we must also remember that Jesus told us that no one except His Father knew the day or the hour of the end of the world: ‘But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father’ (Mark 13:32).

This is not to say that the end will not be preceded by the signs which He told us. It means only that no man can know for certain when exactly the end will come. When it does come, as He has said, it will be sudden, ‘For as lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even unto the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be’ (Matthew 24:27).

GOD’S WORDS ARE NEVER IN VAIN

Are then the signs given us by Jesus useless to us? Since He is God His words cannot be in vain. After telling us the signs which shall precede the end of the world and the time of His second coming to judge all men, He tells us, ‘Watch ye therefore, because you know not what hour your Lord will come… I say to all: Watch’ (Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:37).

THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO BE READY AT ANY MOMENT

God has come from eternity into time so that men may go from time to eternity. For each man the moment of his passage is the moment of his death, and this moment he does not know. But this moment will be the end of this present world for him. At every second of his life eternity awaits him, the end of his time. For the whole world eternity waits at each second. At some second, preordained by God, the whole world will come to the end of time. There are signs which will precede this end and man can by these signs surmise when the end might be. But he cannot know for certain that the end is here. But it is not so important to know for certain when this final end of time will be. The imporatant thing, as Jesus has told us, is to be ready at any moment for our own end or for the end of the world: ‘Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come’ (Matthew 24:44).

THE ENDING

This surely is a necessary conclusion from the words of Jesus. Throughout time eternity waits for man. Throughout time the love of God, the hatred of the devil and the free wills of men are writing the history of mankind. It is for each man and for all the nations of the world, with God’s grace, to write the true final ending of the story. If men freely reject God, they will write the false ending to their own story. If they freely accept the love of God, they will with God bring their story to its true ending, eternal happiness in the Kingdom of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959
(Headings in capitals added afterwards)

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS FORETELLS THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE END OF THE WORLD

“In great sorrow Jesus brought His public preaching to a close with a solemn warning of destruction to Jerusalem. Then He sat down opposite the Temple treasury and watched the people offering their gifts to the Temple. He observed the splendid gifts of the rich. But he also observed a poor widow putting in two mites, a small sum, but all she had to live on. He called this to the attention of His disciples.

‘Amen I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting money into the treasury. For they have all been putting money in out of their abundance; but she out of her want has put in all that she had – all that she had to live on’ (Mark 12:43-44).

JESUS CHRIST’S OWN PEOPLE WILL REJECT HIM

This little incident is both a solace to Jesus and a lesson to His disciples. Jesus has come from heaven to offer men the precious gift of salvation, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. But the Scribes and the Pharisees have rejected Him. Under their leadership His own people will reject Him and demand His death. Their unwillingness to receive Him shows, on their part, a lack of total dedication to the love of God. When Jesus sees the poor widow giving all that she has to the Temple, His heart rejoices at this example of total love of God. In pointing it out to His disciples He means to tell them once again that it is the spirit which inspires a gift that makes it valuable in the eyes of God. The rich gifts offered by the wealthy were praiseworthy. But since they were only a small part of the abundance of the wealthy, they did not symbolise so well the total gift of one’s self which God demands of every man. But by giving all that she possessed the widow showed in fact that she was totally dedicated to God.

‘THERE WILL NOT BE LEFT ONE STONE UPON ANOTHER’

After this incident Jesus and His disciples remembered His warning of the approaching doom of Jerusalem. They could not help but contrast the beauty and the solidity of the stone walls of the Temple with the sad forecast of the ruin of the Holy City. One of them said to Jesus,

‘Master, look, what wonderful stones and buildings!’ Jesus replied, ‘Dost thou see all these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mark 13:1-2).

Jesus and the band of disciples went then to the Mount of Olives. There the curiosity of the disciples could no longer be restrained. Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him, ‘Tell us, when are these things to happen, and what will be the sign when all these things will begin to come to pass?’ (Mark 13:4).

DID JESUS MEAN TO CONVEY THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING SOON?

In the minds of the disciples there must have been great confusion. They had accepted Jesus as the Messias. Since they were Jews it was natural for them to expect the Messias to bring great glory to the Chosen People and to Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. But Jesus had just told them that Jerusalem would be left desolate and the great Temple, the centre of worship of Jahweh, would be destroyed. Perhaps they thought also that the destruction of the Temple would occur only when the Son of Man (spoken of by the prophet Daniel) came in glory to establish the final Kingdom of God at the end of the world. Of what then could Jesus be speaking? Did He mean that the end of the world was coming soon and that then His own glory would be manifested to all men?

WOULD THE GLORY OF THE SON OF MAN BE MANIFESTED TO ALL MEN SHORTLY?

Jesus, in replying to their question, spoke of both the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world. But He distinguished the two events. They were not to be simultaneous, but rather separated by some interval of time. The destruction of Jerusalem would come during the lifetime of the generation of men who had listened to Jesus Himself. But the end of the world would come later, at a time determined by God the Father. When this time might be was not permitted to men to know. But it would be preceded by signs which would warn the followers of Jesus of its approach.

THE FOLLOWING THINGS TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN THE YEAR 70 A.D.:

As for the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus first warned His disciples to beware of false Christs, men who would claim to be the Messias. These false Christs would only lead the people astray. There would be wars, and rumours of wars, He told them, pestilences, famine and earthquakes. The He added, ‘And when you see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not – let him who reads understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not go down and enter to take anything from his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe to those who are with child, or have infants at the breast in those days! But pray that these things may not happen in winter’ (Mark 13:14-18).

All these things took place before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. False Messiases arose and led the people into revolt against the authority of Rome. Jerusalem was besieged. Its people suffered from famine and pestilence.

As for the disciples themselves, Jesus told them, ‘But be on your guard. For they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, a witness to them’ (Mark 13:9).

THE APOSTLES WERE NOT TO BE AFRAID

When this persecution came upon the disciples they were not to be afraid. ‘And when they lead you away to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to speak; but speak whatever is given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit… And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:11-13).

The disciples of Jesus are urged by Him to face persecution without fear. They will be working for God, for ‘the gospel must first be preached to all nations’ (Mark 13:10).

JERUSALEM WAS ENCIRCLED BY VESPASIAN’S AND TITUS’ TROOPS

God Himself, therefore, will speak through them, and if they persevere they will be saved.

That the first Christian community took His warning seriously is proved by the fact that the Christians there fled to Pella just before the encirclement of the city by the troops of Vespasian and Titus.

THE ANGELS WILL GATHER HIS ELECT FROM THE FOUR WINDS

The mind of Jesus then turned to the thought of the end of the world. With prophetic insight He foresaw the signs which would precede His coming as the Son of Man in power and majesty to judge the world. ‘Then,’ He said, ‘there will be great tribulation, such as has not been found from the beginning of the world until now, nor will be. And unless those days had been shortened, no living creature would have been saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then, if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ do not go forth; ‘Behold, he is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty. And he will send forth his angels with a trumpet and a great sound, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’ (Matthew 24:21-31).

‘BUT OF THAT DAY OR HOUR NO ONE KNOWS… BUT THE FATHER ONLY’

Before the world comes to an end, then, a number of false Christs will appear, seeking to lead men astray. So powerful will be the forces of evil that even the elect would be led astray except that God will shorten the time so that they may be saved. Just when the end will come Jesus does not say.

‘But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only’ (Mark 13:32).

Jesus does not mean that as the Son of God He is Himself ignorant of the day when the world will end. He means that this is knowledge which God the Father does not allow to angels or men, but reserves for God alone. Jesus, as the Son of God, knows the day and the hour, but as the Messias He will not reveal it to men.

OUR LORD JESUS’ COMING WILL BE AS QUICK AND AS SUDDEN AS LIGHTNING

The destruction of Jerusalem, as Jesus foretold it, would not be sudden, its approach would not be unrecognisable. Men would have an opportunity to flee from the city and escape its fate. But the end of the world would come suddenly and men will find no chance to escape.

Neither will they be able to recognise its approach clearly.

‘And as it was in the days of Noe [Noah], even so will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noe entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away; even so will the coming of the Son of Man be’ (Matthew 24:37-39). Or, as Jesus had already said, His coming will be as quick as sudden as a bolt of lightning searing the sky from east to west.

‘TAKE HEED, WATCH AND PRAY’

Because of the uncertainty of the time of the end of the world Jesus warns His disciples to be ready at every moment for that final catastrophe. ‘Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is’ (Mark 13:33).

In several parables Jesus emphasised the necessity of being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world. ‘As a man,’ He said, ‘when he leaves home to journey abroad, puts his servants in charge, to each his work, and gives orders to the porter to keep watch. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or early in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping’ (Mark 13:34-36).

Or again, ‘Watch, therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come’ (Matthew 24:42-44).

Or, ‘Who, dost thou think, is the faithful and prudent servant whom his master has set over his household to give them their food in due time? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find doing so. Amen I say to you, he will set him over all his goods. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master delays his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day he does not expect, and in an hour he does not know, and will cut him asunder and make him share the lot of the hypocrites. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 24:45-51).

THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH VIRGINS

Lastly Jesus made the same point in the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. Ten virgins went out joyfully to attend a wedding. They carried lamps to light their way. Five were wise and carried also some vessels of oil to replenish their lamps if it became necessary. But five were foolish and carried no extra supply. The coming of the bridegroom was delayed. The virgins fell asleep. When the bridegroom came they arose and prepared to attend the marriage feast. But the lamps of the foolish virgins had gone out and so they were late in arriving at the feast. The door was shut. The bridegroom, not knowing them, refused to let them in.

…TO MEET JUDGMENT UNAFRAID

In all these parables Jesus was emphasising the point that His disciples should be prepared always to meet judgment at the hands of the Son of Man. ‘Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the Son of Man’ (Luke 21:36).

No man may know when the end of the world will be. But all men must be prepared to meet it at any moment. They must watch and pray so that they meet judgment unafraid.

‘HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD’

This thought of the end of the world and of the second coming of the Son of Man is followed quite naturally in the discourse of Jesus by a description of the judgment of men at the end of time. ‘But when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory and before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the just will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and feed thee; or thirsty, and give thee drink? And when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and come to thee?’ And answering the king will say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left hand, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life’ (Matthew 25:31-46).

THE JUDGMENT WILL BE BASED ON THE LAW OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

As the Son of Man, the apocalyptic figure spoken of by the prophet Daniel, Jesus will come at the end of the world to judge all men. His judgment will be based on the law of love which He so often preached to men. Those who have loved their fellowmen enough to aid them in their need will be given eternal life with God. Those who have not followed this law of love will be punished eternally in the fire of hell prepared for the devil and his angels. At the moment of judgment the secret of all history will be revealed.

THE SECRET OF ALL HISTORY WILL BE REVEALED

Jesus does not tell us the full nature of this secret. But He tells us enough for us to know that it flows in some mysterious way from the free wills of God, the angels and men. In the transcendent freedom of His will God has loved the universe enough to give it being, existence. And He has given it existence for the sake of His elect, angels and men whom He will gather from every corner of the universe to share His Kingdom with Him. The elect are those who live by the law of love, love of God and love of one another. Their love is the free choice of their own wills, echoing generously the creative act of God’s free decision to make the world. But some angels, and some men, will freely choose not to imitate the divine love; they will refuse to love [unconditionally], and in their refusal they will reject both God and all others. They will be punished by their own refusal; having rejected [unconditional] love, the secret of the universe, they must live forever in the self-corrosion of hate.

TO LOVE ANYONE IS TO LOVE HIM WHO IS THE BROTHER OF ALL

The disciples of Jesus might have wondered that Jesus mentioned only love of men as the basis for the final judgment of all men. Surely, they might have thought, men should be judged on the basis of their love for God. But Jesus had already taught them that it was God’s will that they should love all men as they loved themselves. In so doing they would be loving God Himself.

And in Jesus Himself there is an ever deeper reason why this is true. Jesus is God Himself come to earth, God-made-man. By taking to Himself a human nature, the Son of God has become the neighbour, in fact, the brother of all mankind. By His own free decision He has identified Himself with all men. To love anyone, therefore, is to love Him, Who is the brother of all. And to love Him is to love not just a man but God Himself.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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PASS IT ON, PLEASE, FRIENDS: A PRAYER FOR PROTECTION AGAINST THE GREAT SUFFERINGS THAT ARE SOON TO COME IN THE WORLD

PRAYER FOR PEACE ON EARTH

“According to information from a reliable source the following prayer was disclosed to a devout priest in Rome during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when it was revealed to him that those who say the prayer with devotion and faith would be spared from the great sufferings that are soon to come in the world.”

PRAYER:

O Jesus! Divine Saviour! be merciful,
be merciful to us and to the whole world. Amen.
Powerful God! Holy God! Immortal God! have
compassion upon us and the whole world. Amen.
Grace and mercy, my Jesus, during the
present danger! Shield us with thy Precious Blood.
Eternal Father, show us mercy in the name of
the Precious Blood of thy only Son; show us mercy,
we implore thee. Amen. Amen. Amen.

 

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