On the last things

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Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe

As we approach the end of the liturgical year, it is appropriate to reflect on the eschatological dimension of our faith – on death, judgment, heaven and hell. We believe that upon death, each one returns to God to account for their life on earth. Today’s Gospel give a picture of the events that would mark the Lord’s return. No one knows the hour except God the Father, but Jesus does not want us worrying about that, only to be on the alert. Nevertheless, many have taken it upon themselves to predict when the end will come, while many others even deny that it will ever happen.

Charles Taze Russell, the Founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, predicted that Jesus was coming in 1914. After his death in 1916, his followers shifted the prophecy to 1926. Then they said it would be at the end of World War II. Later it was 1975, and then 1989 – all to no avail. We must listen to Jesus alone and not be misguided.  He wants us to live a normal life, but with consciousness of the last things.As theResponsorial Psalm says: “I keep the Lord ever in my sight: since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm” (Ps.16:8). That is all we need to do.

Then there are those who deny that the end will ever come, and that is more dangerous. When people discount the reality of an eternal judgment for our actions, a whole new moral order emerges, with grave implications for society and civilization. When people live like the end will never come, what we get is a self-centred morality whereby everyone is always right in their own estimation. However, since every moral action is tailored towards an end, our conduct as Christians must be shaped by what we hope to achieve in the life after death – our morality is a function of our eschatology.

In the Book of Exodus, the people of Israel grew sick of waiting for Moses who had gone to meet with God on the mountain. The result was the fashioning of the Golden Calf and the ensuing moral breakdown.  In modern history, different philosophies have come up that negate the Christian view of the end while propagating their own versions. The Marxist ideology promised the Communist Utopia as the ultimate reward for humanity, with the Communist Party as the “church”. The Nazis promised the Third Reich as the end with the National Socialist Party as their “church.” There was also Fascism in Italy, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, among others.  Tragically, all these alternative systems that deny the Christian view of the end have one thing in common – a legacy of sorrows, tears and blood; the dehumanisation of people, and the destruction of life and property on an industrial scale.

Today, we live in an age of relativism, a pernicious ideology that denies the objectivity of truth and morality. This virulent relativistic mentality which denies the Christian concept of death, judgment, heaven and hell means that everyone makes up their own morality, and their own understanding of human nature. The popular cliché today is, “whatever works for you/whatever makes you happy”, and the result is a tragic unravelling of family life, culture and society at large. Marriage is redefined, and the destruction of human life at the earliest and the most vulnerable stages becomes normal. Nothing is sacred anymore, and whoever tries to defend the natural and traditional values of society is deemed “obsolete” and “out-of-touch”. Previously outrageous relationship platforms are becoming mainstream – polyandry, open relationships, bestiality, etc.

Nevertheless, we can be sure that the truth of Gospel will endure till the very end. No one can silence the voice of truth and reason – not the hateful critics and not the rabidly hostile media. There are many wishing that the Church will go under. We have continued to witness apocalyptic statements about the imminent demise of the Catholic Church, and there have been relentless attacks on Christian values especially regarding marriage and sexual morality.  Some commentators are already talking about a Post-Christian epoch in history. And there are even many supposed Catholics calling for changes in doctrine concerning marriage and human sexuality. Worse still, some are seeking the annulment of the seal of Confession in the name of judicial process. The sacramental seal is what makes the sacrament so strong, sacred and effective, so to call for the removal of the seal is to seek to destroy the sacrament.

All said, we must always acknowledge the shame caused by some shepherds who chose to feast on the sheep they were meant to nurture and protect, and we pray for healing and renewal for all those involved, while working hard to ensure that such evils never happen again. We are called to vigilance, and to reflect on the end of our own lives and what follows. We need to consider the eschatological implications of all our actions. That way we are more able to act in line with the mind of Christ and the divine plan for our salvation. We can rest assured that the truth of the Gospel will prevail in the end; against the dictatorship of relativism, against sin and unfaithfulness, hatred and division; against discrimination and marginalization of the weak and vulnerable; against greed and economic exploitation, excessive accumulation and consumerism; against an unethical medical science that places profit above human dignity; against a political system that spends millions and millions fighting “climate change” but then promotes policies that work against the integrity of marriage and family, and the sanctity of human life. The truth of the Gospel will surely prevail!

At Mass today, therefore, let us pray for the Church and its ministers, that they may propagate the teachings of Christ without fear; and for ourselves, that we may always reflect on the last things, and shape our lives accordingly.


 

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