When will Jesus come again?
This is a question I often get when travelling through the schools (it was particularly popular in 2012 for some reason). Wondering about the end is nothing new- if you were old enough to see the panic of Y2K at the turn of the millenium, or if you can imagine the fear that existed throughout the nuclear arms race during the cold war, you can see a couple modern examples of people wondering if the end is in fact near. It’s not a new question… in fact, Jesus’ own disciples asked Him when the end was going to come:
As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” Jesus said to them in reply, “See that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains. (Matthew 24:3-8)
He goes on to describe other warning signs of the end, then Jesus says:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone …therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:36, 42)
There’s two main points you can draw from Jesus’ comments here.
First, there are warning signs that the end is coming: people will be misled into believing in something that isn’t true, there will be war and strife among nations… in short, the world will be in a bad place. And this is certainly the case today: war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and civil strife in the middle East; lots of so-called religions drawing people away from the faith, not to mention natural disasters aplenty. You could look at all this and say that the signs of the times are speaking a word of warning – and you would be right. The Church has held that we are living in the end times – and have been since Jesus died and rose from the dead. The Apostles were so convinced that Jesus was returning immediately – in their lifetime – that they didn’t write things down or try to organize the Church right away… they got out and shared the Risen Christ with anyone who’d listen. But the warning signs are there. If you look at the reality of Jesus’ birth, there were many signs pointing towards that as well, but very few people were paying enough attention to recognize Him. Jesus will come again, and chances are, most of us will not be paying enough attention to what’s going on.
That’s really the second point- we need to stay awake, and be aware. I could get into a car this evening and leave for home, only to get hit by another driver on the highway, and today would really have been the end of the world for me. I will be facing my judgement, and rendering an account for who I am and what I’ve done (in that order.) Did I love God? Did I love my neighbor? The way in which I have answered these questions in my heart and life will determine my eternal destiny: with God, in Heaven, or separate from God (Hell.) The point is to live today as though there may not be a tomorrow- because there really might not be – not in a reckless manner, but keeping in mind that Jesus may come tomorrow.
One other thing of note… for us as Catholics, we believe that Jesus comes to us each and every day when we go to Mass. When the priest repeats Jesus’ words from the last supper, standing in Persona Christi – in the place of Christ – then the bread and wine are changed into Jesus’ own Body and Blood. He becomes truly present to us each time we go to Mass, whether we’re aware, paying attention, or AWAKE. He came 2,000 years ago, and many didn’t notice. He comes EVERY Sunday – every day, really, because you can attend daily Mass – and many don’t notice. Chances are, many won’t be paying attention to the signs He gives that He’s coming back, so don’t depend on signs and warnings to let you know the end is near. Live as you ought to live, now, and you won’t need to worry whether or not the end is here, near, or far off.
Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times. (St. Augustine)