Sunday, February 13, 2011

The End Times

This morning I had a long discussion with a dear friend of mine, one who I respect in many ways, and one with great intelligence (probably even more than mine --- I know that’s hard to believe, but I think it really is so). She had seen a presentation on the End Times, a “prophet” proclaimed that is was likely upon us, and what we must do: Buy Gold! Well, there was more to it than that, she said, and it had left her worried.

Certainly these are trying times for our country and for the world. Mostly, however, the trying times are defined in terms of financial problems, but you and I know that IF these are indeed unusually trying times, there are probably worse things going on for mankind than its loss of money. There is a large spiritual loss. We are said to be in a post-Christian era by many, and some believe it is a furthering of the Age of Enlightenment. And this is where I led our conversations this morning.

Simply put, the Age of Enlightenment began a couple of hundred years ago when some philosophers noted that we were at the end of the long era of Christian leaders of the Roman Empire, and now were at an era of independent nation states. The Christian leaders, following “a god” hadn’t advanced the good of mankind much, they believed, and nation states didn’t appear to be doing much better. There were some “haves” and many “have-nots”, and this was not a good thing, they believed. So what to do? Their answer was to point out that God hadn’t helped man much, so man must help himself, and in this Age of Enlightenment and science, man was better equipped than ever to do just this, help himself. It was proposed that the best and the brightest of men should lead the world to a better place for all mankind, and the world should follow their leadership, even if it had to be done by force --- after all, it was for their own good. Some pointed to using a “planned evolution” of man, breeding the best and brightest --- and eliminating the rest. For many, this made sense; for many today, it still does. But this “a leader who knows best” philosophy has since been tried out in Russia, Germany, and many lesser states: and it always failed. It was started there by people of those countries who didn’t know what to do with a government heavily in debt, high unemployment, and high inflation --- it was started by a scared people, but their situation was similar to ours today.

I initially joined in with my friends worries this morning, as I pointed out that recently, perhaps we were only a signature away from such a state here in this country. A Congress united behind a president could have declared a national emergency and suspended elections, setting up an “emergency” dictatorship. It had happened in other countries, why not here? My friend initially sunk lower on this statement, and asked “So what can we do?” She was thinking back on the “prophet’s” calling, about how to protect monies, save her house, and protect her job, but I helped turn her thoughts with a single question: Why? Why focus on saving all these things if the “worst” really was happening? If unemployment were to jump to 50%, the dollar turned to toilet paper, and inflation was 100%, what is the point of ensuring that while 90% of the country suffered, you wouldn’t. “You would profit by the coming disaster,” as the advertisements state. Why? Would you want to be in that elite 10% with money, protected by guards from your starving neighbors? Is that what you’d really want? Not if you were truly a Christian.

My friend truly is a Christian, a deeply committed one. I think that troubled her even more, realizing what she was worrying about. To calm her fears about a potential “end times” I told my friend my some thoughts on what might happen here, should a dictatorship be declared to minimize a financial chaos, as I postulated. I would expect an “Egypt moment” to then occur here, where the conservative people here would rise up against Washington, and eventually the conservative military also, if necessary. I don’t think a dictatorship would survive long here in America, even if the majority of the “enlightened” people wanted one. Perhaps this last election was the start of such an uprising, and staved off such a fate. But it is irrelevant to me whether this potentially bad thing happened, or that maybe a good thing helped offset it, none of those bad and good things matter. I have faith, and holding on to that faith is more important than holding on to any money.

My faith says God will make good out of even the worst of things. His Son died, and that turned out to be a good thing. And even in dying, His Son had faith. Isn’t that the example He set for us? Now such a faith isn’t setting back in your chair, looking heavenward and saying: “Well God, here I am. Fix everything.” That is not faith. Faith is believing that God created you, He loves you, and He will permit nothing but the best for you --- even if that means dying, as His Son did. Faith means taking all the talents we have, our circumstances in life, and His graces and using them to do the best we can toward doing His will, toward achieving His plans, which are for the best good. Faith is going forward, even if the worst is happening, and even if we pray, we pray most fervently, that this trial should end --- and it doesn’t. Faith still believes that this is for a good.

Perhaps a financial crisis is inevitable for this country; perhaps a weak, worried-about-votes Congress won’t take any meaningful action to avoid it. Even so, perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps this will cause a reversal of the “Enlightenment,” and man will again realize that God is in control of his fate, not man himself. Perhaps it will help men learn again to take care of their neighbor, when the government can’t. Perhaps all these would be good things. Perhaps.

But these are all “perhaps” thoughts. If “only the Father knows the hour” of the end times, why should I be worried by those who proclaim it is now? Why should I be worried about any outcome? If I lost everything financial, every asset I had and stood in bread lines or rummaged through trash cans for food, as a Christian, is that really the “end” for me? No, the end for me is if I lose faith, a trust in God that He will take care of me, no matter what. No, the end for me is if I can’t read those four words at the top of this blog and take them to heart. The end for me is if I truly believe only I can save myself. Then I am doomed, no matter what I do.

Perchance I was reading a little booklet I always carry with me this morning --- although you and I know nothing is really by chance. The booklet is called “You Are Not Alone --- Prayers in Dark Times.” I buy this booklet by lots of 50; it only costs about $3. When I come across people with deep worry or sadness, often over the loss of a loved one or the finding of serious illness, I give them a copy. Many have told me it gave them great peace. I read two of the pieces in that booklet this morning, and they seemed to apply to my later conversation --- and perhaps that is why I had read them. Perhaps. ;-)

“Nothing is Merely An Accident”

I have an ever deeper and firmer belief
that nothing is merely an accident
when seen in the light of God ---
that my whole life,
down to the smallest details,
has been marked out for me
in the plan of Divine Providence
and has a completely coherent meaning
in God’s all-seeing eyes.

---- St. Edith Stein

A Prayer Against Fear

Holy Spirit, Spirit of courage, I need Your gift urgently and now. I am afraid. I feel very vulnerable and in danger. Sometimes my fears well up from my own insecure soul, but sometimes they come from real dangers and threats to my well-being or even more to the well-being of those I love and care for. Give me the wisdom to realize that some of my fears are unreal shadows of my own mind. But some of my fears are real, representing real dangers and threats. More often fear that should be a warning sign calling to caution and prudence becomes a danger in itself. Let me not give in to fear that leads to panic and causes me to lose my good judgment.

Keep me, Holy Spirit, from the swamp of fear and then be with me when the cause of fear is all too real. Let me recall always that the Lord goes with me through the valley of the shadow of death. Reveal Your Presence to me, even in the specter of real danger, even to life. Let me know that Jesus is there on the other side. Remind me that the martyrs passed from their terrifying experience into the everlasting brightness of Christ’s eternal glory. Help me in my fear to always know that He is with me.

---- Fr. Benedict Groeschel

No comments:

Post a Comment