The quote above is a song by the band REM. I am sure some of you will recognize it. It does not express my personal feelings, but I thought it might be a good way to catch people’s attention.
As we have noted over the past couple of weeks, during the month of November, the Church turns her attention to those teachings which fall under the heading of The Four Last Things—Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Included in these are reflections on the end of the world, or the endings of the world as we know it.
In the Gospel Jesus and His Apostles are in Jerusalem at the Temple. People were looking at the huge stones with which the Temple had been built and were marveling at them. The Temple was one of the great marvels of world at that time, and the fact that human beings had been able to move these massive stones, lift them, and place them into the Temple structure was truly a wonder. Jesus says to the crowd, “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Whenever I read this Gospel, I think of a crowd of people standing at the base of the World Trade Center on Sept. 10, 2001. They are looking up in awe and wonder at these two incredible towers—absolute marvels of architectural engineering. As they do so, someone standing there says, “By 10 am tomorrow morning, both of these towers will be a smoking heap of rubble.” Chances are, they would laugh at this poor deluded prophet of doom. How absurd. It would have been unthinkable.
When the towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, the world as we know it came to an end, and we entered into a new frightening age. When the Temple was destroyed in 72 AD, the world of the Jewish people, as they knew it, came to an end, and they were in a new and terrifying, and painful era.
One thing we learn from the destruction of the Temple and the attacks on our country on Sept. 11, is that the end of the world is almost never really the end of the world, but it is the end of the world as we know it. When we graduate from high school and go away to college, it is the end of the world as we know it. When we get married, it is the end of the world as we know it. When we have children, it is the end of the world as we know it. If we get a job that requires us to move across the country, away from family and friends, or go into the military, it is the end of the world as we know it. If we go through a divorce or lose a spouse or child or parent to illness, if we experience catastrophic health issues of our own, or we lose our job or our business or our career, it is the end of the world as we know it.
How many times has the end of the world come in your life? Chances are, it has happened time and time again, and it will happen any number of other times.
–Fr. Mike Comer