Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

'Doomsday Prepping' Catholic-Style

‘Doomsday Prepping’

December 21, 2012 is right around the corner, so, according to the ancient Mayans (or at least those trying to capitalize financially on the ancient Mayans) that should mean the end of the world.  As Christians, we should know not to take such things seriously.  The world will most certainly come to an end, and that day may or may not be soon, but just a few weeks ago at Mass we heard Jesus say that “of that day or hour, no one knows” (Mk. 13:31).  No one includes the ancient Mayans.
The end of the world is a hot topic, though, there’s no doubt about it.  One of the more popular reality shows is Doomsday Preppers, about people’s preparations to survive some imminent natural, economic or military disaster.
Now I am not casting aspersions on anyone featured on the show.  We certainly live in perilous times, and threats of terrorism, tyranny and economic collapse are not unrealistic.  However, in this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus warns us about an event that we can be sure is coming, and yet our culture does very little prepping for, even though doing so should be a hallmark of our lives.
I am speaking, of course, of the Second Coming.  Jesus will return and the present world will end.  This is not fantasy or the imaginings of fanatics.  It has been promised by our Lord, and is a clear teaching of the Faith.
This event will be preceded by tribulations, which will undoubtedly include persecutions, and numerous people will likely die, many as martyrs.  Of course, try being a Christian in much of the Eastern Hemisphere today and that would simply be called daily life.  There is a much more subtle and perhaps more dangerous persecution we face in the West.  But other than telling us to pray for the strength to endure the tribulations, Jesus focuses on another warning in this week’s Gospel.
He tells us that nations will be in dismay and people will die of fright.  As St. John relates in his Gospel, the people preferred darkness to the Light.  When the Light of the World returns in majesty, those who have embraced the darkness will not be able to stand.  But to us, Jesus gives very different advice.  “Stand erect and raise your heads,” He says, “because your redemption is at hand” (Lk. 21:28). 
Even many believers don’t like to think about the end of the world, perhaps because of the tribulations preceding it, but I think mostly because we are so attached to the worldly lives we have constructed for ourselves.  But with the early Christians it was not so.  Look at the very end of the Book of Revelation.  What does it say?  “Come, Lord Jesus.”  The people were waiting with anticipation for the return of the Lord and the day of their redemption.
That day will come.  Whether it comes in our lifetimes or not, no one knows, as Jesus has made clear.  But to me, it seems that Jesus is telling us that there will be two groups of people on that day: those who, out of hatred of the Light, flee and even die of fright; and those, who belong to the Light, who stand proud, for this is the day of their victory.
Jesus wants us, and all men, to be in the latter group.  We know that God desires all to be saved, which is why He so often warns us of the things that lead to perdition.  “Beware [of] carousing and drunkenness,” He says.  But then He warns us not to let the “anxieties of daily life” make our hearts become drowsy.
For most of us, we may imagine that we are on the right path, but we had better examine how we have responded to the anxieties of daily life.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in worldly concerns, many of which are reasonable and part of the duties of our state in life.  But before long, if we have not made our spiritual life THE priority, we realize that we have stopped dedicating quality time to prayer, we no longer have time for charitable activities, and we can’t even remember the last time we fasted or went on a retreat, or even made a holy hour.  If nothing else, I know I am speaking for myself.
It is so critical to make prayer and time with God the most important part of our day.  We don’t need to spend two hours in meditation.  Not that that wouldn’t be great, but many of us do have responsibilities that might preclude it.  But what we need to do is carve out quality time to spend in prayer, and make that time non-negotiable.  Many spiritual directors recommend starting our day with that serious prayer, so that we are sure the anxieties and chaos of the day don’t rob us of it.
Either way, though, if we make that time a priority, that we do not sacrifice for any but the most critical of circumstances, we will be among those who stand erect at the Coming of the Lord.  St. Alphonsus Liguori said, “Those who pray are certainly saved.”  Whether or not we are alive at the Second Coming of Christ, we all will face the day when we stand before Him and our lives will be our judgment.
None of us know what exactly the future will bring, and there is no harm in being prepared.  But before we prepare our bunkers, or our food storage systems, or whatever, we had better prepare our souls.  Because there is no running from that day forever, and it is the Children of the Light who will prove to be truly prepared.