Eschatology? You're Soaking In It!
Jesus warns His listeners and those who read His words throughout the ages in parables to keep alert. In Matthew 25, He tells us the story of the Wise Virgins, and the Parable of the Talents, and then He tells us of the Final Judgment. It's a terrifying passage of Scripture, a thing to bear in mind, and yet, we forget.
Until something awful or horrifying happens, such as war, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, political turmoil, or at the more personal level, perhaps an illness or a death in the family; then we begin to wonder, is this the end of the world? Are we in the 'Last Days'?
The simple fact is that, since the Ascension, we have been in the Last Days. Jesus warned His disciples, and by extension the Church, to bear eternity in mind.
And so here we are: for the first time in 1,600 years, Mass was not offered at Minya, Egypt owing to the ongoing persecution of Coptic Christians by the U.S.-supported Muslim Brotherhood; the Archbishop of Canterbury compared the Anglican communion to a drunk man near the edge of a cliff; and, in the United States, a judge on the New Mexico Supreme Court told a businesswoman that she must compromise her religious principles because that betrayal "is the price of citizenship". Related, and even more chilling, was the story of the Oregon State Labor Commissioner suggesting that those who do not support the redefinition of marriage should be "rehabilitated".
Times have not in my recollection been so bleak; I've lived a spoiled and sheltered life, by historical and geographic standards, despite the fact that I am a "hard case" in some ways.
"There is an urgent need, then," Pope Francis teaches us in Lumen Fidei, "to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim" (emphasis added). We have tried to navigate by our own lights, without realizing that the things we hold dear were purchased with the capital of previous generations, with their faith, their hope, their charity.
As R.J. Snell writes here:
Integral humanism is unknown to a society failing in thought, memory, imagination, and freedom. Paradoxically, the faith is often rejected on the grounds that it is the faith which is unthinking, forgetful, small-minded, and unfree. As the late Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan put it, aptly in this case, “a civilization in decline digs its own grave with a relentless consistency.”When you look around, you see the Church giving warnings to the world, if only it would heed them. The storm is brewing on all sides, and we need more urgently than ever to turn to the Lord and beg Him to deliver us safely through it.
What will that look like? I tried the Benedict Option in its original form by going after monastic life with gusto, but found myself called back into the world; and yet, I still understand where Rod Dreher is coming from when he writes of "dropping out of a barbaric mainstream culture that has grown hostile to our fundamental values".
I have dropped out in many ways, but I remain on the periphery. When I went away, I couldn't bear to be away from the city; I saw that the city needs men and women of prayer in it, people who can be on the front line in the present evil, to attend to the frightened, the injured, and the lonely.
I can go to the monastery when I like, as a place to recharge, to regroup for the battle, to attend to my own wounds. But my work is out here; that's why I'm out here and not in there: to fight, to attend to the frightened, the wounded, the sorrowful, the lonely, if they would be saved.