The End? Not Likely

By Chris Sparks

Recently, I’ve been engaged in a number of conversations on social media on where exactly we are in the grand scheme of things.

Some people have pointed to Marian apparitions as evidence that the times are dire, and that we are probably at the very end of history.

Now, it’s always possible. After all, Jesus was clear:

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mt 24:36).

No one knows the time of the ultimate end of the world save God. And so all speculation is, to a certain extent, useless. Oh, we’ve been given signs in Scripture and Tradition, signal events to watch for, certainly. But only God knows from all eternity when the end will come, and He knows it because He sees from His all-encompassing, eternal perspective how human beings freely respond to His graces, past, present, and future. What He sees is how our responses in every age actually hasten or delay that final end of history. Thus, the timing of the end really does depend on how we respond to God's grace from age to age.

Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien made the point in his great work Father Elijah that saints and prophets have come and gone proclaiming the end, and perhaps had the Church and the world not repented, not responded to that proclamation, perhaps the end would have come. But there was a response. The patient was sick, and was made well. However, just because a person who was once sick unto death has recovered in the past does not guarantee that the next illness will not be fatal.

Someday, the speculation of Christians will be correct — we or our descendants in the faith will someday truly be living at the end of all things.

No matter what period of history Christian believers live in, though, our vocation is largely the same. We are called to live Christian lives here below, holding ourselves in readiness to come before the Lord either by our deaths or by the end of the world. No matter which end we experience on earth, we have certain perennial tasks: Trust. Love. Mercy. Peace of soul.

Scripture lays out plainly for us what Christian life — life in the Holy Spirit — should look like:

[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

The newly canonized St. John Henry Cardinal Newman once explained what life in the Spirit looks like from the outside: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not ... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense ... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man.”

So no matter what we suspect, no matter where the evidence points, our call is to the same gentle serenity, quiet strength, and supernatural peace.

Now, having acknowledged that, where do I think we are in the grand scheme of things?

Well, I’m fairly certain we aren’t in the time of the end for a simple reason: The secret of Fatima makes no sense if this is the time of the end.

Specifically, Our Lady’s promise makes no sense. She concluded the second part of the secret of Fatima by saying definitively, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

Our Lady made that promise in 1917. Since that time, I could not point to any clear “period of peace” granted to the world. Now, we are assured by St. John Paul II and Servant of God Sr. Lucia that the consecration has been made as Our Lady requested. So we’re awaiting that period of peace. We’re awaiting the fulfillment of Our Lady’s promised Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.

If that’s the case, then the next great act of human history will be inaugurated by the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart and a period of peace. Some people interpret that to be the end of all things. But I don’t think that makes sense. After all, we’re promised a period of peace. The end of the world would mean we enter an endless peace, eternal peace, final communion between Heaven and earth. It would be the end of all struggles.

That doesn’t sound like a period of peace to me. That sounds like the end of ages, the end of all different periods of time.

So I’m fairly confident that we aren’t in the time of the end. Not yet.

At the same time, practicing Catholics have a heavy responsibility not to just sit back and relax. We shouldn’t be the bad servants from Christ’s parables (see Lk 12:35-48), especially not those of us who know about and practice the Divine Mercy message and devotion. After all, the 20th century mystic St. Faustina Kowalska recorded in her Diary:

 [Jesus said] Write down these words, my daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy ... (848; see also 635, 1146).

Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy (1588).

We who have been blessed with Catholic Christian faith, and who have been introduced to the message and devotion of Jesus, the Divine Mercy — well, we are gifted with incredible treasures. We must share these with the wider world, spreading the word of the message and devotion as far and as fast as God allows.

So let us turn to prayer, and words, and deeds (see Diary, 1317).

Let us pray for the conversion of poor sinners everywhere, for the salvation of souls, and the sanctification of the whole of humanity, especially using the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Let us be willing to explain and defend our faith, studying so that we are prepared and know our faith accurately, and commit to telling the truth in love.

And let us act with mercy by the grace of God, performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, as well as aiming to be merciful to all our neighbors — family, friends, enemies, strangers.

If we open ourselves up to life in the Spirit — if we live a sacramental life, steeping ourselves in prayer and love — then we shall let God act more freely in the world. Then we shall open the present age to the end of the world a little bit more. Then God shall be a little more all in all (see 1 Cor 15:28).

Chris Sparks serves as book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

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