As a new year begins, is the end near?

Blackbirds falling mysteriously from the sky. Fish dying by the tens of thousands. A group of Christians predicting the very date of Christ’s return: May 21 of this year.

Some are saying the new year is starting out like our world’s final one.

They could be right.

They’re probably wrong.

Persons looking for signs of the end of the world can find them in any age. One year ago on Wednesday, the earth shook in Haiti and 230,000 men, women, and children ? not blackbirds, not fish ? were killed, many instantly. Certainly those who lived through a world war, or the Black Death in Europe when bubonic plague killed half of the continent’s population in the 14th century, would have been justified in thinking the end might be near.

What does the Catholic Church say about the end times?

“Since the Ascension, Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “even though ‘it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.’ This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are ‘delayed.'”

In the Creed we acknowledge our belief that Christ will come again to
judge the living and the dead. In our daily Mass we pray “as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Joyful hope. No matter what trials we are enduring, be they personal or apocalyptic, we are a people of joy and hope because our Lord is already victorious.

Yes, an end is surely coming — whether today, May 21, or a million years from now. But it will really be a new beginning as we and the world are born into something not fully known.

In the meantime, we have been given the grace of seeing another year, another new beginning. The best resolution we can make and keep is to find each day ways to make Christ, who already reigns through the Church, more present in our lives and the lives of those around us until that day he comes in glory.

There is no better guarantee for a very happy new year. — Thomas J. Dermody

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