by Father Mike Stubbs
A couple of Sundays ago, when we switched from daylight savings time to standard time, I couldn’t help glancing over from my rectory window to the church parking lot once in a while, to see if anyone had forgot to reset their clocks and were arriving for the early Sunday morning Mass one hour in advance.
Time flows on, whether we like it or not, however we might divide it up, into hours, minutes, seconds. We human beings can impose our conventions, try to make sense of time, introduce our own schedules but, as such, time stands outside our control.
Sunday’s first reading, Dn 12:1-3, recognizes this transcendent quality of time. The word “time” appears four times in the reading. That frequent occurrence of the word singles out time as an important theme in the reading. In every case, the word “time” points to the same moment. That particular moment lies in the future, but otherwise remains unspecified. It is simply “that time.”
Current terminology often refers to the moment in question as “the end times.” Endless speculation by fundamentalist Christians to pin down that moment to a specific date has often filled much of their time, but to no avail. It remains an undetermined moment in the future.
What is the “end” indicated by the phrase “the end times.” Is it the end of the world as we know it? Or, is it, rather, the end of time itself? Does it mean an entrance into the timelessness of eternity? Both scenarios have been advanced as a possibility.
In any case, the Book of Daniel contemplates a turbulent end: “It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.” On the other hand, it will also be a time of salvation, at least for some: “At that time, your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.”
Judgment will also mark the end and will conclude with either reward or punishment: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” Evidently, the end is not so definitive after all. It results in either eternal reward or eternal punishment.
Meanwhile, we live out our lives. It is not that we are waiting for the clock to run out. Rather, we are journeying toward a goal. We are traveling toward eternity.
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