When we get to this time of year, we move into a reflection on the ‘last things’, meaning how and when will things end. This is in the worldly sense and in the personal sense: the end of the world and our own ending in death. The month of November begins with two days dedicated to the memory of the dead: All Saints Day for those who are in heaven and All Souls Day for those in Purgatory.
Actually, we do recall hell as well in the distasteful but popular celebration of devils, witches and monsters during Halloween, the eve of All Saints.
At the same time, the Sunday liturgical readings remind us that this earth has a shelf life and that it will end either by human means or divine. With the problems connected with climate change, we see almost daily the erosion of comfort with the Earth’s stability: hurricanes, fires, flooding and other natural disasters. These speak of increasing problems with the habitation quality of the Earth that we have taken for granted for too long.
And what can I say about all this talk of nuclear war? If the Cuban missile crisis made it imperative to seek arms control in the last century, what are we to make of the loose talk about ‘tactical nuclear weapons’? Have we not learned about the foolishness of trying to control this power to end the world? We have men at the buttons of these systems who are of questionable wisdom or even sanity!
All this adds up to heightened insecurity for all of us. And I have not even mentioned the mass killings and the fear of random violence in our streets!
As secure as this society is when compared to other ones on the globe, we have to at the same time to admit of a growing sense of insecurity as well.
This is where our faith in God comes in. Our faith is not in the things of this world. This used to be a given before the Second Vatican Council. At that time, there was a more ‘other worldly’ spirituality that put everything in daily life into a category of things that are transitory and therefore of limited importance. While the renewed emphasis on the importance of the here and now is basically a good thing, it does produce the negative result that we absolutize this life and relegate the life to come into a kind of fantasy level: nice to think about but of no real importance.
Given this renewed emphasis on this life, these aforementioned threats to our living a peaceful life seem all the more frightening and final.
But God is greater still. As seemingly hopeless is the future, we need to see how God has the power and the will to redeem and save man both from the clutches of evil in Satan and also from the weakness that is in the human person. God is greater than our future and He is love itself, so that no matter what may happen in the future, good or bad, our refuge is in God who is all powerful and all loving.
This is the importance of faith. A trust must take possession of us in the invincible victory of Christ over death. For the Resurrection is not merely the bringing back to life of the dead Christ. The Resurrection ushered into human history the victory of God over all these faults and evils. While God still puts the future in human hands because of His justice, He supplies human beings with His invincible assistance. We do not merit this, of course. But the gratuitousness of this is all the more amazing because of this.
The one thing necessary is to put our will into God’s will. For the gift of freedom is irrevocable and God must, by His own design, respect the choice we make for or against Him. To work against our pride and to be humble before God; to will God’s power into our lives; in the gloom of the evil forces arrayed against us to say a simple ‘Yes’ to God: this is the power of humankind. We must fight against evil by conforming our will to God in humility and love.
This is the great message of the masterwork “The Lord of the Rings”. Tolkien, in his usually veiled mythological language, uses the simple and humble Hobbits to confound the powers of Sauron. In a powerful moment captured beautifully in the movie version of the book, everyone—including the king, kneel before the simple, humble Hobbits to laud and praise their devotion, unselfishness and courage in helping to save ‘Middle Earth’.
Our lives will end. This world will end. But the love of God is eternal. So, we need not fear. Christ is victorious. We have only to walk with Him by following the will of God.