Focus on what matters
When I was a child growing up in Dublin, I can recall that almost every year we had a visit from Jehovah Witness missionaries. These were usually young men who were carrying out their missionary commitment which is part of their obligation as a Jehovah Witness. I guess they take the “witness” part of their belonging very seriously. It was also not unusual, when I was a child, to have the Jehovah Witnesses predict the imminent end of the world. The predictions were usually published in their newsletter “The Watchtower” and the years that the Biblical Armageddon was to happen included: 1878, 1881, 1918, 1925, 1975 and a number of years around the AD 2000 Millennium. I guess predicting the end is not a precise science.
Of course, we don’t have to look to the Jehovah Witnesses for a preoccupation with the end times. There was a great deal of concern about the imminent end of the world, or civilization as we know it, around the year 2000 AD and the millennium. Much of the concern was around the inability of computers to compute the date 2000 resulting in the crash of the economic and banking infrastructure which had become dependent on computers. Also included in the imminent crash were such as flight, the power grid, land ownership information, security information, government files and so forth. At the parish where I lived at the time a group of Catholic people moved into the neighboring rural areas, bought a farm, and dug a “shelter.” This shelter was filled with durable food stocks, beds, living areas, generators, fresh air supply equipment and the necessities of life. This was to be a safe shelter that would provide temporary life support in case civilization collapsed. I’m pretty sure that a number of people entered this shelter on the eve of the millennium and came out a few days later only to find that the world was as it was before.
Further back around 1000 AD there were also concern for the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ. Many Christians expected the end of the world, and some Catholic preachers predicted the end was coming. The same was true of many protestant reformers from the sixteenth century and beyond. The truth is that almost every age and every religion have a similar fixation with the “end times.”
We can see in the Gospel today that this same concern is present at the time of Our Lord. The people ask Him when the end will come and what will be the signs that indicate its arrival. Jesus Himself predicts the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the persecution of His followers. They will be thrown out of the synagogues, brought up on charges, will have to face false witness, be stoned, and killed. Nevertheless, Jesus tells His disciples that even though all these things will happen, they are not to lose focus. Instead of wondering if this is the end, or the beginning of the end, His followers are to remain steadfast in living the life He has called them to live. The disciples of Jesus are not to waste their time in speculation but in carrying out His mission to bring salvation, not destruction, to the world. Their time should not be wasted on what might happen, but it is to be spent in making things happen. And what is it they are to make happen? The building of the Kingdom of God. Anything else , falls short of our calling, our mission, and is a waste of valuable time and resources.
Let’s face it, we all are living in the last times. I’m fifty-eight years old and have been a priest for almost thirty years. That means I have about ten to twenty years of life left, possibly longer, but more likely, shorter. I’m living in the last times as far as my life is concerned. Soon, I will face God. Soon, I will have to give an account of my mission. I have no time to spare. For me, as Saint , Pope John Paul II said: “The future starts today not tomorrow.”
Building the Kingdom is about love, loving God, and loving our neighbor. That love will be the only thing we carry into God’s presence and that love will exist for all eternity. Love is the only treasure that will matter to God, and love will be the only treasure we will take with us to God. Focus on building the Kingdom. The rest is just something that is left behind to turn into dust.