Q. In the mist of recent natural disasters, and the overall moral depravity we see in the world today, many Christian friends are claiming that these are signs of the Apocalypse. Do we believe this as Catholics?
A. During his time on earth, Our Lord cautioned his disciples against being preoccupied with the end of the world. “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the 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). We believe, as Catholics, that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Nevertheless, Jesus clarified that we don’t know when the second coming will occur. He said, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:32).
Instead of telling us how to predict when he will come again, Our Lord directed us to prepare for the end of our own lives through vigilance. For example, he gives us the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins: the five wise virgins brought enough oil to keep their lamps burning as they awaited the bridegroom. The five foolish virgins were ill-prepared, and did not have enough oil for their lamps. As the bridegroom approached, they were off buying more oil and did not meet the bridegroom until it was too late. We don’t know when our own personal end will come, and when it does come, we don’t want to be found unprepared.
We remain vigilant Christians by seeking to be greater disciples of Jesus Christ every day of our lives. Our Lord has not instructed us to figure out when the end of the world might be, but he tells us, “come, follow me.” We do this through the spiritual means of receiving the sacraments with frequency, developing intimacy with the Lord through prayer, while trying, through the grace of God, to eradicate sin in our lives and grow in virtue.
The plan of God is mysterious to us. But we remember that he is a loving God and his wisdom far surpasses human wisdom. The Lord could allow physical evils like natural disasters and even moral evils like the depravity in our world today, to awaken us to seek greater holiness in ourselves in order to prepare us to meet him in a better way. When we hear of the many evils in the world, we can use that as an opportunity to be more fervent in our prayer and to speak to others about the good news of Jesus Christ.
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