Last Thursday a group of atomic scientists met in Washington D.C. to discuss the doomsday clock. You know what doomsday means—it refers to the end of the world. Close to doomsday means close to the end of the world
The doomsday clock is a symbolic clock face. It was designed in 1947 by a group of atomic scientists. It was their way of telling us how close we were to doomsday because of world events especially nuclear weapons. In 1947 they set the clock at 7 minutes to midnight to tell the world that was how close we were to doomsday because of nuclear weapons. The hands have been adjusted 20 times since 1947 reflecting international events dangerous to humankind.
Last January 2013, they adjusted the clock to read 5 minutes to midnight. Last Thursday they decided to leave the hands at 5 minutes to midnight, reminding us how close it could be to the end of the world.
People have always been interested in the end of the world. The disciples in the gospel that we just read asked Jesus when the end would happen. They wanted to know if there would be any warning.
This is what Jesus says in Matthew’s account of this gospel (matt.24:30):” the sun will be darkened; the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky; there will be a big earthquake…they will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and glory.”
Some of the people who lived through 9/11 thought the end of the world was coming-- the darkness-- the smoke-- the fire-- the confusion-- they thought they were experiencing Jesus’ description of the end of the world. For some of them it was the end of their world.
The thought of experiencing something like this is just too frightening to imagine. All sorts of questions come to our minds. When will all this take place? Will I be ready? Where will I be at that time? How long will it last? What will it be like after it’s all over?
Jesus answers some of these questions for the disciples.
As to the question of when, he says: “but of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father”.
Do not believe any person or any church that tells you that they know when the end of the world is coming. They don’t know. Nobody knows. Jesus makes that quite clear.
We do know one thing-- as sure as there was a beginning there will be an end. As sure as we breathed our first breath we will breathe our last breath. As sure as the calendar has a date of my birth, it has a date of my death.
We don’t know everything, but we do know some things for certain. We know there will be a general judgment at the end of the world. All of our secrets will be revealed. There will be no more room for hypocrisy. All of our questions about justice and fairness will be cleared up. When Christ comes in glory he will show us at last how good triumphs over evil. We will know how the justice of god works.
We will have the answers to all those difficult questions. We will understand the reasons for all those things that don’t make sense to us now. Our anger and bitterness will seem foolish when we know the truth about god and the devil and heaven and hell and purgatory and time and eternity. We will say: I should have trusted him more.
Some people worry about the end of the world. We really don’t have to be concerned about that. We do have to be concerned about the end of our world. Jesus says be ready. I have to be ready for the end of my world—my little world will end and I will surely be there.
My little world of who I am-- what I own-- what I know--what position I hold in society--who is important to me—what is important to me-- all of that will end when I die.
Someone else will dismantle everything that I have put together all my life. My possessions will be disbursed hither and yon. Someone else will be driving my car. Someone else will be living in my apartment. There will be different things on the shelves and walls of my room.
When the telephone rings, someone else will answer. My position will be filled by someone else. As the scripture says my place will not see me again.
The bible says it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment. We will experience person to person and up close the particular judgment. In a twinkling of an eye our whole life will pass before us. When the soul leaves the body, while all of the people are still in the room, while the undertaker is carrying my body out, I will already have an appointment with the god of the universe. There will be a balance sheet—an evaluation. Then I will know how much I depended on god. And what he expected of me. Suddenly I will see the consequences of all the choices I made during my life.
About ten years ago at midnight I was called to upstate hospital. When I walked into the room in the intensive care unit, the family and friends were gathered around the bed. I saw a young lady, only 28 years old lying on the bed. She had just died. Then my eyes moved toward her side and I saw a little newborn baby all dressed in pink. She was so beautiful, so innocent so new.
It took me a little while to realize that she was dead. They had been in an accident. The baby was born dead. The mother died shortly after.
I didn’t know what to say. It was the end of the world for that mother and that baby. It would be the end of the world for that husband and for those parents for some time to come.
We know not the day nor the hour of our death. We do not know the circumstances of our death.
The church gives us this gospel to think about as we approach the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The church wants to remind us, as Jesus reminded his disciples, that life on earth is but a brief preparation for another life. Advent is a time of preparation.
Jesus reminds us that we should not get so overly involved with our earthly life here that we lose sight of our eternal life to come.
No one knows when earthly life will end or when the world will end. Only the father in heaven knows this. It will come when we least expect it. It will come suddenly. We will have little or no time to prepare with conversion, repentance, and confession. We have to be ready, now, for that final moment.
Some people have a problem with death and with endings. Some people have a problem thinking about life after death. This little story helped me to think about death and life after death.
This is an imaginary conversation between twins that were still living in the womb.
They’re looking around, exploring their environment. Suddenly they discover the life cord of the mother. One of them says: the mother must love us very much. She is sharing her life with us. As they move around growing and expanding they realize they are running out of room.
First twin says: we’re running out of room. You know that our time here will soon come to an end. We will have to think about leaving this place.
Second twin says: don’t talk like that. I’m afraid. I don’t want to leave. I know what it’s like here. I don’t know what it’s like out there. I don’t even know if there is anything out there. How could there be? No one has ever come back.
First twin says: of course there is someplace out side of here. We’re talking about it aren’t we?
Second twin says: I don’t care. I’m afraid. I don’t want to leave. I’m comfortable right here. Why can’t I just stay here?
First twin says: we have no choice. We have to leave. Besides maybe there is another life outside of here. Don’t you think the mother would like us to see her face?
Second twin says; I don’t believe any of it. How can we leave the life- cord of the mother. We won’t be able to live. He begins to go into despair. Besides nothing makes sense. What is the meaning of all this? If we are in this place for only a short time why be here at all? Maybe we don’t even have a mother. What will happen to us?
First twin says: of course we have a mother. Otherwise how could we be here? Who would keep us alive?
Suddenly they go through the birth canal. They are born into a new world. They’re eyes are opened. What they see exceeds their greatest expectations --- the light- the colors- the sounds- the voices- the love-- the mother’s face. They are so happy.
St. Paul describes all this when he says: eye has not seen ear has not heard. Nor has it even entered into the mind of man what god has prepared for those who love him.