The end is near!

7 December 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Second Sunday of Advent

I used to read several newspapers every day but I now get my news from the Internet. I still glance at the daily newspaper, though. I read the obituaries first. This, among other things, is something that comes with being a senior citizen they tell me. As I read about the death of some school chum or brother priest, the obits can get depressing. Father Frank Wallace assures me I will move beyond this stage of life. His own friends and acquaintances are no longer in the obituaries, he says. He is now 93 years of age. I can see his point. 

Be that as it may. After the obituaries, I might need something to cheer me up, so I turn secondly to the comic page. I notice there are certain artistic devices all cartoonists use. One cartoon character shows up quite frequently — an old man dressed in a white robe, tied at the waist with a rope. He has a long scraggly beard and carries a handmade sign with crude lettering proclaiming “The end is near.” There’s always a joke in there someplace. 

A few Christian denominations are obsessed with the end of the world. In fact, it’s all they ever talk about. Sunday after Sunday, the sermons are based on the book of the apocalypse (the Book of Revelation to us). This usually comes with the belief that they themselves will be saved from destruction and somehow sucked up into the eternal windbag of bliss. Everyone else will be left behind. 

Catholics, on the other hand, have all of Scripture and tradition. We know there’s much more to Salvation than the end of the world. Nevertheless, we pray constantly that one day the Kingdom will come. This faith of ours is our consolation and eternal life our hope. 

We Catholic Christians do spend four full weeks every year pondering the end of the world (exclusively during the first two weeks of Advent). It’s foremost in our thoughts and prayers. On the Third Week of Advent, we begin to include remembrance of the First Coming of the Lord, that is, His birth in Bethlehem. On the third week, the pope lights up the Vatican Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square. We can even lighten up the color of our vestments — rose instead of violet. But for the first two weeks, it’s all about the end of the world and the Last Judgment. 

The Last Judgment is a wondrous tenet of our faith, every bit as comforting as the birth in Bethlehem. We await the return of the Lord and the fullness of the Kingdom. Just like children at Christmas, we can hardly wait for the Kingdom to come. But we must. We wait in December’s darkness. We hope and pray that perhaps the Kingdom will come during this New Year of Grace, 2015. If not, we will blow out the candles of our Advent wreaths and turn to our celebration of the First Coming of the Lord at Christmas. Maybe the Lord will return next Advent. It occurs to me that we have been waiting so long for the Second Coming of Christ that sometimes we can forget what we are awaiting. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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