Imagine arriving at school. You talk to your friends on the way to class without a care in the world. You sit down at your desk and laugh at something the person sitting next to you says. It’s a normal day. Your teacher clears her throat, and says, “Put your books away, take out a pencil. We’ll be taking a pop quiz.”
Your heart starts to race, your palms sweat, and your face grows hot because you know there is no way you will pass this quiz.
But, why are you surprised? Did you not know there would be a test sometime? Of course you knew. You just didn’t know when.
When I first read this Sunday’s readings, I focused on the signs of the end of times; a subject that I have worried about and tried to avoid for much of my life. In late 1976, Pat Robertson, a television evangelist, predicted that the end of the world would come in October or November 1982. In a May 1980 broadcast of The 700 Club he stated, “I guarantee you, by the end of 1982, there is going to be a judgment on the world.” His prediction caused me many sleepless nights in my youth, and only after 1982 had passed was I able to stop tormenting myself.
There have been hundreds of end-of-the-world predictions, whose dates have come and gone. Every generation has recognized the signs. There has been war, famine, earthquakes, and religious persecution. The gospel says, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Does it really matter when, as long as we’re prepared?
But, prepared for what? Judgment? A test to see if we are good enough to be accepted into His kingdom? I used to fear just that.
The second reading says that by Christ’s one offering, “He has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated”. In other words, He’s coming back for us. He died for our sins, and took His seat forever at the right hand of God. And now He waits.
With this in mind, I don’t think Christ’s return can be adequately likened to cramming for an unexpected test, but to how we prepare for a highly anticipated vacation. We research our destination, arrange transportation, make reservations, shop, and pack our bags. Sometimes we even pack far in advance because we are so excited for the trip.
In the same way, we need to be prepared for Christ’s return. As Catholics, we already know the way we should live as members of the body of Christ. We don’t need a “to-do list” to have completed by that time. As Paul says in 1Thessalonians 5:9-11, “For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.”
I’m reminded of when we expect friends over for dinner. My kids start asking, “How much longer?” hours before our guests expected arrival. They watch out the window and squeal when they see our friends appear. Wouldn’t it be great if we anticipated Jesus with as much enthusiasm?
Jesus talks about the days after the tribulation. How the sun will darken and the moon will not give its light and stars will fall from the sky. Can you imagine that? The world without any light?
“And then they will see ‘‘The Son of Man coming in the clouds, with great power and glory, and then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”
He’s coming for you.