Saturday, May 14, 2011

Signs of What?

Personally, I am not expecting the world to end on May 21. Of course, it could end that day. However, the Lord was quite clear in stating that the identity of the Last Day is a secret. So the fact that there is all this silliness going around about the end of the world on May 21 suggests to me that it will more likely happen on another day. On the other hand, whenever it does happen, so be it! The challenge is not to know when, but to live always so at to be ready for the end!

Of course, this is the Eater season, which means I have been required to read regularly in the Liturgy of the Hours those horrifying predictions from the Book of Revelation, predictions which, throughout history, inevitably have encouraged such speculations!

But, while the world itself may not be ending, terrible things do keep happening. This does highlight the larger question that inevitably arises when calamitous events (e.g., destructive storms and floods in the US and earthquakes around the world) occur. Again, throughout all of human history, people have readily ascribed natural calamities to divine wrath. Even humanly induced calamities, e.g., wars, have been so interpreted. The best example in American history, of course, is Abraham Lincoln's interpretation of the Civil War as God's judgment on Americans for the sin of slavery. Such views seem much less fashionable today - even among those who still purport to take scripture seriously. We all recognize that natural calamities keep happening, no matter what. We also recognize that there is obviously no clear connection between their victims and specific sins. I am reminded of Thomas Hobbes, who, when told that various calamities were being blamed on his purported "atheism," supposedly wondered why then he managed to escape unscathed when all sorts of other suffered.

Only in the most general sense can one suggest that humanity's fallen condition is to blame for the world's ills. Even that claim would be challenged by some. In any case it is far too generic to explain - or, better, to interpret - the woes of the moment. And interpretation is precisely what is desired in such circumstances.

Thanks to today's feast of the Apostle Matthias, at least I get to skip the regular weekday reading, which, after describing an earthquake killing 7000 persons, goes on to say: The second woe is past, but beware the third is coming very soon.

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