The following is in response to a featured article in the Catholic Herald of the 23rd December 2011 by the journalist and author Daniel Kalder. His article was entitled "Have no fear, the world won't end next year" (i.e. 2012). I was hoping to link you with the article in the Herald, but I cannot, so instead here is the link to the article on Mr Kalder's own site so that you can read the article for yourself and see both sides of the arguement.
“Have no fear, the world won’t end next year”.
I should also make the same answer to anyone who said that the world will end next year.
For Christ Himself says:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come.”
Who would you rather believe, a journalist, the Mayan Calendar, or God Himself?
I know who I believe, the One who made the world and who will also determine the year of its demise.
But before I comment on a few of the inaccuracies of Mr Daniel Kalder’s article in the Catholic Herald of 23rd December 2011, there is something of great importance that we should all consider. It actually doesn’t matter when the world does end! Life on the planet Earth will end for each of us the moment when we die. That is the moment that we have to prepare for, that is the moment when all our actions and thoughts will be weighed. We don’t have to be found righteous by the end of the world, whether that be next year or in thousands of years hence; we have to be found righteous when we die, whether that is in the next few minutes, or in a few dozen years’ time. So: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Mt. 25:13).
To briefly cover the points raised by Mr Kalder.
The Book of Revelation is in the ‘Canon of Scripture’, it has been an accepted part of the Bible from the earliest Christian Church. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. John was the tool used by God in order that it should be written down for future generations, including us.
It is incorrect to say that St Augustine of Hippo only recognised the allegorical sense of the Book of Revelation. In fact like Jerome, and indeed Origen, he recognised the four senses by which Scripture should be understood, which he named as history, analogy, allegory, and aetiology. Not that a passage had only one of these meanings, but that each passage contained within it all four senses. In St. Augustine’s own words: “It is a matter of history when deeds done—whether by men or by God—are reported. It is a matter of allegory when things spoken in figures are understood. It is a matter of analogy, when the conformity of the Old and New Testaments is shown. It is a matter of aetiology when the causes of what is said or done are reported.”
St. Thomas Aquinas in his clinically brilliant organised way further explained and classified the four senses of Scripture into the ‘literal’ (historical in St. Augustine’s classification), ‘allegorical’, ‘Moral’, and ‘Anagogical’ (or ‘eschatological’) senses. These can be understood by use of a medieval couplet:
“The literal speaks of deeds; allegory to faith;
The moral how to act; anagogy our destiny.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 115-119)
So seeing the Book of Revelation as an allegory of the fight between good and evil is correct, but does not negate seeing in it also the Apocalyptic vision.
Saints and sinners both have thought that the end of the world was nigh. We are not good at reading the signs of the times, as Christ foretold: “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” (Mark. 13:7-8)
From the time of Adam and Eve we have always wanted to know everything, to eat of the tree of knowledge, but God wants us to depend on him alone. For what is our intelligence as compared with his, what is our capacity to plan as compared with his? How many people do we know who ‘cannot organise a party in a brewery’?
Getting it wrong about the date of the end of the world is not a sign that someone is not a good person, it is just foolishness.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming……
Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
(Mt. 24: 42, 44).
Joachim of Fiore was a good learned man, who did not say when the world was to end, but did give an estimated date as to when the faith of the world would enter a new age, the age of the Spirit. He lived a tough religious life as one of the Poor of God, as a hermit, and as a monk of strict observance. He was (as Mr Kalder writes) known by, and approved of, by three good learned Popes who encouraged his writing. He wrote of the coming of the third age of the Church, the age of the Spirit. This fitted in with the words spoken by Christ to the Samaritan woman: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn. 4:23-24) Joachim thought that the third age would begin in the 13th century – but even St. Benedict had also thought it would not be long until the end of the world. Mr Kalder stating that Joachim unwittingly laid the foundation for the anti-religious revolutions of the French and the Communists is odd to say the least! Even Joachim’s strongest critics would admit that he believed in, and loved, God. Both the French Revolution and the Marxist Ideology were not just secular or even atheist, but were anti-God! Daniel Kalder also commentated that Joachim was wrong in saying that “Redemption could occur within history, rather than after the End of Time” , But Mr Kalder, haven’t you forgotten that Christ has already redeemed us by his death on the Cross, and that his death was very much in time – to be precise, Good Friday, nearly two thousand years ago! We are redeemed, and we can remain in his flock by obeying his commands, picking up our cross, and following him.
Savonarola has also been misunderstood in Daniel Kalder’s article. Girolamo Savonarola was the Prior of the Dominicans in Florence. Is Mr Kalder criticizing him for protecting his fellow citizens from being killed and the city from being destroyed by King Charles VIII of France? When the threat of war was averted Savonarola helped to bring in a democratic government to Florence, where no man could be appointed to office without the assent of the people who must always retain ‘the sole right of creating magistrates and enacting the laws’. He also insisted in the city helping the poor, reducing the tax except for the rich, and preached that there should be no ‘witch-hunt’ for internal enemies: ‘Florence, forgive and make peace.’ The ‘bonfire of the vanities’ did, it is true, burn playing cards – and obscene books, pictures and secular statues, lewd songbooks and dice, gaming-tables, mirrors, cosmetics and wigs. But it was not enforced as was the burning of statues and Crucifixes in the Reformation! People willingly put on their own possessions. The Cambridge Professor Eamon Duffy writes: ‘with his own hands, the great Florentine artist Sandro Botticelli burned his own pagan pictures’, and certainly Botticelli started painting Christian pictures after this time. In Savonarola’s time, as in our own, there was corruption amongst the clergy, and he was fearless in his preaching, condemning the scandal of priests for whom “religion consists of spending the night with whores, the day gossiping in choir.” Whatever the scandals of the 21st century Church, we have been blessed by God in having an upright and holy Pope in Benedict XVI. Savonarola was not so fortunate, he had Pope Alexander VI – who was described by George Elliot as “a lustful, greedy, lying and murderous old man, once called Rodrigo Borgia”. In a very thinly veiled comment about the Pope who had just fathered another son, Savonarola stated that: “In the old days consecrated priests used to call their (illegitimate) sons ‘nephews’. But now they’ve stopped speaking of nephews and, on every possible occasion, they speak of their ‘sons’.” It is no wonder that he was persecuted for speaking the truth! As the Pope Alexander VI said: “Put Savonarola to death, even if he is another John the Baptist.” Yes, he preached that if people did not repent of their sins they would go to hell – but isn’t that exactly what the Catechism also states! (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1861).
Mr. Kalder’s certainty that in the year 1033 people went to the Holy Land, and prayed publically in fields in France was due simply to a fear of the end of the world does not do justice to the piety of Christians. I am sure that there will be many Christians visiting the Holy Land in the year 2033 and many large religious gatherings throughout the world to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Our Lord’s Death and Resurrection, thanking God for his redeeming Sacrifice for us on the Cross, and asking for his merciful forgiveness.
St. John’s Revelations, the Apocalypse, would not have been given to us by the Holy Spirit if we did not need it. Heaven exists, and hell exists, and we only have this short life in which we can choose our everlasting destination.
There are the false prophets of doom, who make people fearful as they do not allow people to hope in God’s mercy.
There are the false prophets of comfort, who cry “Peace, peace, where there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). They are just as dangerous as the prophets of doom. For the prophets of doom lead people to despair, and the prophets of comfort lead people to complacency so that they are found sleeping when the Lord comes.
Then there are the prophets of righteousness, who like John the Baptist cry out “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Mt. 3:2; Jn. 1:29), and it is this message which can literally give new life, everlasting life, to those who hear.
To return to the article in the Catholic Herald: “Have no fear, the world won’t end next year”. Its author Daniel Kalder appears to have set himself up as a prophet of comfort. I cannot agree with his confident statement that the world will not end in 2012, for I simply do not know. I do know that I will die, probably sometime between now and thirty years hence, and I have to prepare my soul to meet God. But I do agree with Mr Kalder’s statement ‘have no fear’, for if we are following Christ there is no need of fear:
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them, if he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
(Luke. 12: 32-40)