Columns

Coming to the End

Originally Appeared in : 9724-11/23/17

Read in Spanish

 

At the Ascension of Jesus two men dressed in white appeared and announced to the discouraged disciples, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” These words gave the frightened men something to look forward to – Jesus would return. 

 

The return of Jesus Christ has fascinated generations of Christians, and as the liturgical year comes to a close, the readings at Mass point to this reality. Not long ago I saw an enormous cross-shaped sign in Dudley, Georgia that read, “Jesus is Coming Soon” in big, red letters. Especially in the South, the imminent return of Jesus is in the forefront of the preaching of several Christian churches. Many modern-day religious groups have been founded around the idea that the end is very near, some setting an exact date for the end. Many misunderstandings have arisen, including among Catholics, who are unsure about what the Church teaches regarding the return of Christ and the end of the world.

 

We believe Jesus will return once, and once only, at some point in the future. Scripture teaches his return will be public and visible – no one will miss him, just as he went up he will come down. It will be announced by a loud trumpet; he will be accompanied by angels; and every eye will see him coming on the clouds with great power and glory. We believe that when this happens, the world will end and the final judgment will take place.

 

At this time, those who have died already will rise from their graves to receive new bodies. Those who are alive will not experience death, but will immediately receive their immortal bodies and be taken up (or raptured, as Saint Paul calls it) to Christ. The entire human race will be gathered for the Last Judgment where all things, good and bad, will be revealed. The Earth will pass away and a new heaven and a new earth will remain. We summarize all this into one line in the Creed which we recite every week, “He [Jesus] will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” 

 

The preaching of Jesus clearly points to this end, especially in various parables. Recently we heard the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Some were prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom, and others were not. The master who gave talents to his subjects before leaving on a long journey returned unexpectedly and inspected what each worker had done with his money. Jesus’ teachings can be summarized with this passage: “If the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Matthew 24, 43-44).

 

The end of the liturgical year reminds us that all things come to an end, and something new always emerges. As Jesus ascended, he will return, and as a Church we keep waiting full of hope. As the apostles saw Jesus go up, perhaps in our lifetimes we will have the joy of seeing him come down, but if that is not so, we remain vigilant by the way we live, especially by participating in the Eucharist where Christ returns among us as he promised.

 

Father Pablo Migone is chancellor of the Diocese of Savannah and resides in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist,Savannah.

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