Is This the End of the World?
Fr. John Dresko
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know.
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened,
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the stars were made
And all My angels praised Me in a loud voice?”
“Will anyone pervert judgment with the Mighty One?
He who rebukes God will answer for it.”
(Job 38:4-7, 40:1, NKJV)
Recently, we have endured a rather traumatic and lengthy series of catastrophes. At a glance, one could look at a map and see the Western United States on fire; Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean were flooded and destroyed by hurricanes with such friendly names: Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Mexico suffered the strongest earthquake in over 100 years, followed by another large one in Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world.
On top of that, we have continued war in the Middle East, genocide of Christians in that same area, and North Korea has now joined the club of nations with nuclear weapons pointed at us. And now my town, Las Vegas, suffered the worst mass shooting in US history.
Is this the end of the world? All the things happening are described by the Lord Himself as having to happen before He comes again at the end of time. The answer, of course, is yes, it is the end of the world…and no. Since the coming of Jesus Christ and through His death and resurrection, the world has ended.
Nothing new will come, because He has done everything. But all the calamities have happened and will continue to happen and God will use them all to either bring us closer to Him or to the realization that we do not want Him.
Every person ever born into this world, even if alive for but one day, knows suffering. Hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes all are but what happens to every single person, only on a grand scale. We have our own hurricanes spiritually, even when we are standing in sunshine. All suffering is a result of sin and weakness. But suffering is not necessarily given by God as a punishment.
Job was the most righteous servant of God, but God allowed Satan to take everything from him as a temptation. Then we spend 36 chapters trying to figure out why He allowed this. The verses quoted above essentially say, “I am God. I know what I’m doing. Trust me.”
Our world is “death- and suffering-denying.” We do everything we can to avoid suffering and death, which, in a human sense, is rational and right. No one, even a faithful Christian, is called to be a masochist, seeking out pain, suffering and death. But a Christian can, and must, find meaning in suffering.
And the meaning can only be found in the Cross, and in the Kingdom of Heaven.
If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we know from His own words that we will suffer. Because He suffered. We are called to share in those very same sufferings. But His suffering was redemptive — it was for the salvation of the world. When we suffer, or are assailed by the images of those around us suffering, we can do one of two things. It is the same choice offered to Job.
We can curse God and die, or we can keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and heaven. If we trust God, we are purified in our suffering. If we are purified, we are ready not for the restoration of “good things” in my life, but are ready to leave this life for the Kingdom. If we are ready to leave this life right now, when we do leave, even if many, many years from now, we will find only what we have been waiting for: Paradise.
Why does the Lord give Himself to us in the Church? Isn’t it precisely because it is in the Church that we know Him, see Him, and can then receive Him into ourselves in the Sacraments?
Isn’t it because in the community of the Church we can hold onto each other, support each other, and in that mutual care and love find the strength to seek Him and trust Him? Only by keeping our eyes on Him and trusting in Him, and not the “solutions” of the world, can we see through the tragedies of life and hope in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Witnessing the events of the past weeks should inspire me to look deeply into my own life and ask myself what I really think is important.
How can I just go about my life, thinking all the things I see as important are truly important?
How can I blow off the Church and the Lord, treating Him as a simple bystander in my life?
How can I live to eat, and drink, and procreate, acting like nothing will ever touch me, when I can see how quickly others have been touched?
But I do have to let Him into my life.
St. Paul said that no one is ever tempted beyond his strength. So why am I surprised when temptation or suffering enters my life?
Sometimes the biggest cross I have to carry is to actually decide that God has the right to allow a cross to come into my life and expect me to carry it.
If it’s a big cross, it’s because God knows I can carry it (and, surprise, surprise, God helps me carry it!).
Where was I when God laid the foundations of the earth? Not even in my mother’s womb. So who am I to question Him?
Fr. John Dresko is the Rector of St. Paul Church, Las Vegas, Nevada.