Every once in a while — more often than I would hope — some person or group comes forth with a date certain that the world is going to end. They generally have worked out the date based on the writings of a long-dead philosopher or some numerology statistic or from something gleaned from the Bible.
I hate when I hear those predictions, and I always have. Once a year, the Catholic Church gets us ready for Advent by scaring the hell out of us via a Gospel from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John that reminds us that the world will end some day. Be prepared, they tell us. Like the fig tree. Like the women with the oil lamps.
I’ve never seen a fig tree and I know I would be one of the women who doesn’t have enough oil for the lamp. Dang.
When I was a little girl, I dreaded that particular Sunday. I recall clearly that I would do one of two things. 1) I would FORCE myself to not listen to either the Gospel or the homilist’s subsequent and inevitable message about end times; or 2) listen to the Gospel and the homily and experience what I now know to be panic attacks. I’m serious. My heart would pound and my breathing would quicken and I would want to cry but wouldn’t. Instead, I would sit closer to my mom.
…..the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. – Mark 13: 24-25
This fear followed me well into adulthood. In fact, I was married to Bill when one of the predictions was made. I recall admitting to him that end-of-time predictions scared the hell out of me. I will never forget what he told me.
But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. – Mark 13:32
That quote, of course, is what Jesus told his friends when he was pointing out to them that humans are only on this earth for a short time, comparatively speaking. But Bill paraphrased Jesus, reminding me that only God knows when the world will end. And God isn’t letting anyone — even his own son — in on the secret.
When you’re a little boy or girl, the end of the world seems impossible and incredibly scary. As you age, the idea of end times — like death — becomes a little less scary because you recognize that you’re not going to get out of the world alive.
So these days, instead of hyperventilating, I am trying to think of ways to make sure that when my days on earth are over, I have a place in heaven. I need to be more generous and less cranky. I want to be kind and less judgmental. I vow to pray more and better. I’m going to deserve heaven.
And I might go find myself a fig tree to keep an eye on.