The End Times
We are coming towards the end of the liturgical year, and this is when the Church asks us to think about the end times and the Day of Judgement. Our Lord came the first time quietly in the manger at Bethlehem as our Saviour, and He will come the second time in glory as our Judge. Every Sunday when we recite the Creed we say, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” No one knows when the end of the world will come because Our Lord Himself told us that we can know “neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). So if we see anyone setting dates for it, we know they are way off track!
In today’s Gospel (Luke 21:5-19), Our Lord anticipates the end of the world when He prophecies the Destruction of Jerusalem including the Temple. This did actually happen in 70 AD when the Romans besieged the city and burned it to the ground and tore down the Temple as well as massacring hundreds of thousands of Jews. For the Jews this was like the end of the world, as the Temple was a microcosm for the whole universe. And Our Lord also prophesied the trials and persecutions which the Apostles would indeed suffer, and some were even put to death. But in the midst of all this He says, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be led astray, because this is the time for you to bear witness.”
That said, there are various Signs of the Second Coming of Christ given in Scripture, from the saints and Fathers of the Church. The first sign is that the Gospel must be preached to the whole world. Our Lord Himself told us that we must preach the Gospel to all nations and so this must happen before the end (Matthew 24:14). The Gospel by now has been preached almost everywhere on the planet. The second sign is the Great Apostasy of the Gentiles. This means falling away from the Faith and rejecting God. That sounds like today. Our Lord told us how many would seek to lead us astray with false teachings and false religions (Matthew 24:11). St Paul said the same (2 Thessalonians 2). We all know this is happening now and even within the Catholic Church. Be on your guard! The third sign is the conversion of the Jews to the Catholic Faith. (Romans 11:25). This has not yet happened so the end of the world cannot be imminent. The fourth sign is the coming of the Anti Christ. He will appear during the seven year tribulation – three and a half years before the end of the world. He is called the ‘son of perdition’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He will appear to work miracles and deceive people and be the leader of the apostasy. He will be fully human – not the devil incarnate, but he will be very persuasive. However, we will be given special graces as the disciples of God in this time. The Sacrament of Confirmation will be very important to be able to withstand this trial. But when Christ returns, the Anti Christ will be destroyed. The fifth sign is the Tribulation, which will bring natural and man-made disasters – famines, wars, earthquakes and persecutions of the righteous. We are certainly seeing that now. It’s not easy being a Catholic in our times and it is recognised now that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today with the anti-God agenda and the continual attempts being made to force us to compromise the truth. We need courage, perseverance and grace to be strong.
Let us not fear. God is in control and He determines when the end will come. This is the time to be a saint. None of this is doom and gloom if you’re living in a state of grace and following Our Lord through His Church. In the words of St Padre Pio, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”
Fr Paul Gillham, IC