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Echoes of the End

Echoes of the End

by The Reverend Dr. Roman D. Roldan on November 09, 2022

TLDR: As this liturgical year comes to an end, and readings show us echoes of the end, please remember that Christ is with us and he will remain with us until we are reunited with God.

“The end is near!” This is the message of the Gospel of Luke for the next two weeks, as we end liturgical “Year C” in our Revised Common Lectionary and prepare for the Advent Season of “Year A.” Next Sunday (November 13,) the lesson will come from Luke 21: 5-19. Jesus is in Jerusalem during the last week of his life. Several days before his arrest, he and his disciples are within the Temple area when they hear some praising the beauty and adornments of the great structure. Jesus tells his friends, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." When the disciples asked him for signs, he responded, “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”

The following week (November 20,) we will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King and Luke 23:33-43 will recount for us the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion. The passage will end with Jesus’ words to the thief crucified next to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  I find great hope in the way “Year C” ends the narrative of the Gospel of Luke. In light of the fact that we live in the last days of creation, and every world conflict and war brings with it echoes of the end, it is comforting to be reminded of Jesus’ promise of Paradise. As for when the days of tribulation will come, there has been a group of people in every generation who has believed the world will end with them. This generation is no different. There are some who see in the conflict in the Ukraine, and the unrest in many parts of the world, conclusive proof that we have never been closer to the end times. They believe that natural disasters, the rise of sea levels, the warming of our planet, wars and other conflicts, pandemics, and famines are all proof positive that Jesus’ prophesies are about to become a reality.

And it seems as though many mainline Theologians agree. Either we are living into the last days, or the demise of Christianity will mark the beginning of the time of tribulation. At Clergy Conference 2022 several theologians had a take on these concerns: David Bentley Hart asked, “Is there a Christian Future?” Stephen G. Ray spoke of “Faithfulness in a world on fire,” Amy Zalman spoke about “Using the power of uncertainty to shape the future,” and Matt Boulter spoke of “Story, history, and the end of creation.” These prophetic voices and others are issuing an urgent warning call to be awake, to become engaged in the life of the Church, to work for creation care, and to imagine a better world. During the First Sunday of Advent, Matthew 24:36-44 will advance this theme. Jesus asks his disciples to remain awake and to be ready because “The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

I share some of the same concerns of many theologians in terms of the future of Christianity. Empty churches, the so-called greying of our church attendees, reductions in financial giving, and young peoples’ distrust of institutions and religion paint a grim picture for our Church. In terms of the end of days, however, I believe in Jesus’ words that only God knows the day and the time. We must remain awake, but not just awake. We must remain busy doing the work he has given us to do. He wants his laborers to be fully engaged when he returns. In fact, if all of Jesus’ workers were to engage fully in the work of the kingdom, Christianity would not be in decline.

I remain convinced that Jesus of Nazareth remains good news for the world, and I believe that his Church must live out this good news as we ourselves become good news for the world. I believe God intends to fulfill the prophesy of Jeremiah 23:1-6 through his Son and the Church, “Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.” We will celebrate the arrival of the God-Shepherd very soon. We must not fear the end. Emmanuel is coming soon, and he promises to be with us to the end of the age and to dwell with us in “paradise” in the new creation at the end of days.

So, whatever may be afflicting you today, remember that God has not left us orphaned. He himself will lead us home in due time. Until then, we must remain engaged in his Kingdom, busy doing the work he has given us to do. As this liturgical year comes to an end and every reading shows us echoes of the end, please remember that death is necessary before resurrection and new life arrive. Christ is with us and he will remain with us until we are reunited with God.

May he continue to bless you,

Fr. Roman+


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