Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.
Today’s Gospel, on this last Sunday of the liturgical year, brings before our eyes the revealed spectacle of the end of the world. Even science tells us that there will one day be a disruption of the harmony that now reigns in our solar system: the world as we know it cannot, for natural reasons, go on forever. But Divine Revelation tells us something very different: God will intervene to put an end to the natural cycle that He Himself created. Why will He do this? He will do it because creation will have fulfilled the role He gave it, it will have reached its finality. When? When the number of the elect, the souls to be saved and to spend eternity in Heaven with God face to face, has been completed. Then, there will no longer be any reason for the universe to continue, and so it will be transformed into the new Jerusalem, the eternal city of God with all the elect taking part in the eternal feast of God’s kingdom and all the damned excluded forever, tormented eternally in the purely vindictive flames of hell.
When will all this come to pass? We do not know. The Lord gives us signs: wars, pestilence, intriguing solar incidents unknown in ages past. Although these have never been absent from history, the final days of the world will see an increase in them, such that the world has never seen the like, and which make men shrivel away for fear of what is happening. Our Lord’s words are designed to keep us on our guard, that we might always be ready. Each generation can say in all truth that the end has come, for two very real reasons: the first is that the end of time comes for each of us at our death —which is very close—, for then it is that our time of testing is over and our eternal salvation or damnation is determined; the second is that at each moment, the return of the Lord is indeed possible. At the hour you least expect it, the Son of Man will come, like a thief in the night.
But more importantly perhaps, today’s Gospel also gives us, from the very mouth of Our Lord, some specific instructions on what to do, and what not to do, in those last days, in order to prepare for them. Let’s dwell upon two of them.
Many will come in my name, there will be many false Christs and false prophets. Do not be fooled by false Christs and false prophets, people coming in the name of Christ but distorting His doctrine. This recommendation seems written for this very period in history, in which so many, while continuing to bear the name of Catholic, are promoting an understanding of the faith which is nothing short of its total dissolution. Any teaching that contradicts in any way the teaching handed down by Tradition, or that proclaims to be a new path to a new understanding of the faith and moral practices that are at odds with those of Tradition or put them in brackets, must be rejected: it is an attempt of Satan to lead souls away from Christ. This deception reaches its climax when error or depravity comes from those in the Church responsible for teaching the faith in all its purity; it is the abomination of the desolation, the substitution of man for God, it is the worship of man, it is the rotten fruit of the heresy of modernism, the principle tenet of which, as Pope St Pius X pointed out with amazing clarity, is the distorted belief that whatever comes from inside of me is good, the crooked conviction that religion is about what makes me feel good about myself. This is truly the abomination when it continues to hide itself under the name of Catholicism, using its vocabulary but subtly changing its meaning. We must not let ourselves be deceived, but must stand firm with Christ, with the apostles, with the defined dogma and ever relevant moral practices of the Church.
The second recommendation of Our Lord that we can reflect upon this morning is: Let them flee to the mountains. We know from the oration for the feast of St Catherine of Alexandria which is today, 25 November, that the mountain is none other than Christ Himself. To flee to the mountain means therefore to take refuge in the Life of Christ, living like Him, studying Him, becoming more and more like Him. Like the apostles, we must climb with Him the mount of the Transfiguration where we will see Him radiant with glory, but mysteriously covered with the opprobrium of the Passion, the Lamb of God in glory, and yet, as the Apocalypse tells us, “as it were slain” (Ap 5:6). We must, with St John of the Cross, whom we honoured yesterday, climb the steep ascent of Mt Carmel, the path of which is strewn with rocks and thorns, lined with precipices and deviant paths that lead away from Christ and back down to the valley of death and perdition.
To climb that mountain means to leave behind the pleasures of the world: the leisures, the food and drink, the flesh, the independence, the proud conviction that we know what is best. Just as for the mountain climber, listening to the guide and obeying him become vital, whereas ignoring him means running the terrible risk of being led astray by the deceptions of the Enemy. This is all the more important when we consider, as St John of the Cross teaches us, that at a certain stage of the spiritual life, the path, which was clear at the start, is no longer evident. Only obedience to a trusted and sure guide can keep us from being lost. As the prophet Isaiah warned: Thy ears shall hear the word of one admonishing thee behind thy back: This is the way, walk ye in it: and go not aside neither to the right hand, nor to the left (Is 30:21).
And so let us go forward, let us march, let us not heed the pricks of the thorns, the loss of worldly and futile comforts, let us generously give all to Christ Our Lord, holding nothing back, certain that, in the words of St Paul, we will be filled with the knowledge of the will of God, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding: that we may walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing, being fruitful in every good work in Christ Jesus, for even though the universe as we know it will pass away, His words remain forever.