Fr. Tom addresses Mayan calendar claim that the world will end soon
Franciscan Father Tom Kunnel, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Red Oak and St. Patrick Parish in Imogene, recently wrote a column for his parish bulletins that addressed the Mayan calendar's claim that the world will end this Friday. He explains the end-of-the-world questions using a Catholic perspective.
Will the world end on Dec. 21, 2012?
By Father Tom Kunnel, TOR
On Dec. 21, the Mayan calendar comes to an end and so, some fear, do we. Little is known of the Mayans -- a Central American civiliation skilled in mathematics and astronomy -- but many believe this ancient culture had secret knowledge that enabled them to predict when the world would end. The question we need to ask is, will the world end on Dec. 21?
The foundation of our Christian life is always focused towards our ultimate end, the escatological life; life ordained to be with our Lord. Life with God is continual and ongoing, being both here on earth and continuing on to life in heaven. So the Bible always refers both to life and eternal life -- the life we have here on earth and eternal life in heaven with the Lord. We must not forget that for us Christians, the "eschaton" is the final event. This final event is to be understood not only as a future goal, but as a reality which has already begun with the historical coming of Christ. His passion, death and resurrection are the supreme events in the history of humanity, the true foundation of Christianity, as well as the uniqueness of our religion. This fundamental foundation of Christianity has now entered into its final phase, making a qualitative leap into the final event, eternal life. The horizon of a new relationship with God is unfolding for humanity, marked by the great offer of salvation made to the fallen world in Christ.
Christ said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live," (Jn 5:25). The resurrection of the dead expected at the end of time already receives its first decisive realization in the spiritual resurrection of our soul when our soul, while we are living, experiences the darkness, understands the consequences of darkness of the soul, and leaves its darkness behind to enter into a spiritual resurrection, the primary task of the works of Salvation. The theologian calls this proceess "conversion"' consisting of new life given by the risen Christ as the fruit of his redemptive work. Mary Magdalene was the first disciple to experience this immediately after the resurrection. It is a mystery of rebirth by water and the Holy Spirit which is deeply marked as the sign of hope for the humanity of the present, and of the future. The effectiveness of the redemption at the moment is shown only by those people who totally accept this gift of God, and who in turn radiate and illuminate the world. Precisely, Christ is addressing us, his disciples, "to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth."
The twofold, present and future, dimension of the redemptive works of Christ is explained very clearly in his eschatalogical discourse just before the paschal drama of Calvary as he predicted. "They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky." (Mk. 13:26-27).
The biblical understanding of clouds signifies a theophany; it indicates that the second coming of the Son of Man will not take place in the weakness of flesh, like a babe in the manger, but in divine power. The coming in clouds with great power and glory suggests the ultimate future that will bring the history of humanity to an end. During the trial before the crucifixion, Christ once again repeats the eschatological prophecy, formulating it in terms of an imminent event: "I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the power and coming on the clouds of heaven," (Mt. 26:64).
Now we can understand and grasp well the dynamic sense of Christian eschatology as a historical process which has already begun in our midst and is moving toward its fullness. At the end of all things, there will be a great tribulation, "The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the power of the heaven will be shaken," (Mt. 24:29). This eschatological discourse expresses the precariousness of the world and the sovereign of power of Christ. It will be a complete takeover and moving of everything into the power of Christ, in whose hands has been placed the destiny of humanity. It will likely not happen on Dec. 21, 2012 as the media and Hollywood predicts; surely history advances towards its goal, but Christ has not specified any chronological dates. Attemps to predict the end of the world are therefore deceptive and misleading. Christ has assured us the end will not come before his saving work has reached a universal dimension through the preaching of the gospel. Remember these words of Christ: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached thorughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come." (Mt 24:14).
The evangelization of the world by preaching of the gospel involves the profound transformation of the human person under the influence of Christ's grace. According to St. Paul, the end and the goal of history lies in the Father's plan to "unite all things in Him, (Christ) things in heaven and things on earth," (Eph. 1:10). Christ is the center of the universe who draws all people to himself to grant them an abundance of grace and eternal life. Christ is a divine judge with a human heart, a judge who wants to give life. Only unrepentance and undue attachment to evil can prevent him from offering these gifts of eternal life, for which he did not hesitate to face death.