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Expecting the end of time

We in the Philippines have been battered successively with a string of typhoons and earthquakes this year, leaving perhaps the question in our minds as 2019 draws to a close: Is it the “end of time?” 

Though we are resilient enough to comprehend that tragedies like these repeat themselves like the seasons, this year seems to have been too much; that the litany of disasters to a culture steeped in superstition and ritualistic faith, is a foreshadowing of an inevitable Armageddon.

The “end of time” is just as intriguing as our own death. Enigmas that rarely are spoken beyond whispers, evoke disturbing questions: What will happen when it comes? What will we feel when it comes? What lies beyond?

It is a mystery that strikes at the very core of our humanity, because it alerts us to our fragility, to the inescapable reality that our humanity too will cease.

Everything that we see, feel and touch, all that we hear and listen to, everyone we love or hate, all that we cherish and cannot live without … will vanish. Not even a memory of what has been, or what we value more than life itself, will be left in that limbo that lies beyond.

Will it be darkness? Or light? I once had the uneasy experience of being stranded in a room in pitch-black darkness. What feeling can be more eerie than having your eyes wide open, but everything around you is black. Not even a shadow, or even a slight glimmer of light. It was as if my eyes were numbed to the senses. It was a horrifying glimpse at the reality of blindness, but the shivers are even more bizarre, thinking that we could all end up like this.

I remember in my high school days when I was fond of reading apocalyptic literature, simply because my youth fancied frightening itself more with real terror than fictional gore. Even the book of Revelation found in Scriptures will fail to qualify, because its mythological elements are obvious, and thus will not inspire faith in this contemporary society, as much as it did in the ancient times of the Christian martyrs.

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There were writings that were a lot more fascinating in scaring you to death. Remember Nostradamus? And how about Norman Cayce? Much has been said about predictions of the world’s demise by the end of the second millennium, either exactly to the last second, or some year thereabout.

We used to endlessly entertain ourselves not on when, but on how it will all end: will it be one big and sudden cataclysm, or a slow and agonizing departure? Will we blame a wayward comet, alien invaders, a zombie virus or the spawning of monstrous carnivorous plants, for the death of history?

There was also the fabled list by St. Malachy who interestingly foretold the identity of the last pope, which according to the fellow interpreting the prophecy, corresponded to Benedict XVI. And so, has the Church ended?

It was the eighties then, and I knew I would be well into my thirties by the year 2000. The end of the Church was indeed disturbing, but I was still more preoccupied with the perplexing dilemma of whether I should complete my engineering education and take the licensure exam or marry my long-time girlfriend. I remember it was amusing then to reflect on what use will my profession or my marriage have, if there are only less than ten years left before everything blows up?

But as fate would have it, the world continued to turn. I became an engineer, I went into business and practiced my profession. I got married and I bore four kids. I eventually became a lecturer for continuing education, entered into consultancy and competency-building, and started teaching in the university. I also surprisingly became a lay Franciscan, started studying theology, and am now looking forward to a career in writing and pastoral care. The year 2000 ended up as a year when we feared the Y2K more than we feared Nostradamus.

Are we really meant to fear the “end of time?” Or are we supposed to expect it? Maybe it is not as dark as we think it is. And if we return to and remember with love what Jesus really meant to say in his time, maybe we will understand the true meaning of the Good News. Perhaps we will understand better its genuine consummation.

Jesus aspired for a world free from greed, love for power and prestige. A world of loving and caring for one another, a world in which no one is left behind. A world in which all are prepared to give oneself for another, like he did.

But it is a world we must continuously struggle for. Many will provide the example of selflessness but will be cowed down by the worldly virtue of self-attained success and excellence. Everyone will try to be the best at the expense of another. Our society is pulling us in the opposite direction from where Jesus would wish for us to go.

This is the “end of time.” A time when we are made brave enough to struggle towards more difficult directions, when selfishness and pride will end. A time for the fulfilment of the reign of God. It is a time when we are challenged to strive for the liberation of the oppressed and the upliftment of the forsaken.

Only until then, everything that we do now, is only a process towards the “end of time.” 

We are not called to simply wait for this time to come. We are called to actualize it. We are not called to simply turn away from evil, but to be more active in proclaiming the goodness in everybody, and showing that we can all still be good, in spite of our foolishness. 

There is nothing to fear in the “end of time;” we should actually expect it.

Brother Jess is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines, and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LICAS News.

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