By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published December 6, 2012
There are stories in the news these days about the soon-to-be end of the world. According to the Mayan calendar, the end will arrive on, I think, December 22. Or maybe it is the next day. I’ll have to check the date. Check my calendar.
Predictions of the end of everything come around every now and then. The big day comes, people wake up, do whatever they do to get through the day, and go to bed that night, relieved that there is still a bed, and the stuff of dreams, and coffee in the morning.
Jesus found the theme of the last days compelling. He warned of its cataclysmic arrival and did not mince his words in describing the woe and judgment that would accompany the demise of the heavens and the earth. In the early church, the first generations of Christians held fast to the belief that the end would take place in their lifetime. It did not take long for that belief to fade. The ground held firm. The stars remained twinkling. Life moved on.
Nevertheless, there is a need to be reminded of the passing nature of life. It is, I think, difficult for many of us to take to heart with some degree of seriousness that we and everything about us are passing away.
I remember giving a talk to the Rosary Society of a parish in New Jersey. It was Advent time, and the readings were about the end of the world. The readings drove home all the tribulations of the last days. Wailing and moaning, falling stars, fire and destruction.
The ladies sat in front of me, dressed in their finest Sunday wear, smiling at me as I spoke. Their hairdos were recently saloned, their makeup fresh, their clothes color coordinated. And there I was, talking about the end of it all. And they sat there, smiling, nodding their heads at me in agreement. I paused, pulled away from my notes, and told them that they indeed looked ready to embrace the next incoming comet. They laughed. I returned to my doom notes.
And I think they were as ready as they ever would be. Life as we know it will come to an end for all of us. And we are being asked to be ready for it. And part of that readiness means living each day by giving it the best we can. Once several generations passed, and the early Christians realized that Jesus was not coming back as soon as they had thought, history was taken seriously. For that is where they realized that he was: in their lives, in their communities, in the very ebb and flow of history. So there is a reason to be our best and look our best. For this is the birthing and the end of time—the fleshed out Alpha and Omega, the living reason we try to wear our best and do our best for the Lord who is within us. The eternal lives within us.
The heavens will fall, but we will yet burn with the light that is within us. The brightest and warmest lights I have ever seen, and that I have followed all my life, shine on and on, in the eyes and hearts of people.