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Everything Is Passing Away

Apocalyptic Hope

Everything Is Passing Away
Thursday, April 29, 2021

Jesus said to his disciples, “In those days, after the tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. And the stars will fall from the sky. And the powers in the heavens will be shaken, and they will see ‘the human one coming on the clouds’ with great power and glory. . . . Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:24–27, 31)

Apart from the book of Revelation, Mark 13, along with parallel Gospel passages, is a primary example of apocalyptic literature in the New Testament. It is Jesus’ way of showing that everything is passing away. If we don’t hold this counterpoint in mind, we do one of two things: we take this world far too seriously, or we try to hold on to everything. We think it’s all going to last, but it isn’t. The 21st century, the United States of America, capitalism, our churches and our political parties, and all the rest are passing away. We might recall the Buddhist heart sutra “Gone, gone, entirely gone” when we watch old movies—even celebrities and stars die. We can take this as a morbid lesson, or we can receive it as the truth ahead of time, so we’re not surprised, disappointed, and angry when it happens in our generation.

The spiritual message is really quite simple, although a very hard one for us to learn. It is saying that nothing is permanent. Apocalyptic literature tells us to be prepared for that, so we won’t be shocked or scandalized when someone dies, or something is destroyed. You might learn this truth the moment after you hear of the death of your mother or father, when the rug is pulled out from beneath you. Or, during that moment when you go to the doctor and get a fatal diagnosis and are told you have three months left to live. Or when your house is destroyed by a tornado or flood in seconds. Apocalyptic literature describes such moments and crises. Again, this message is not meant to be heard as a threat, but as a truth that nothing lasts forever. Our great hope is that there will be something we can grasp onto, something that’s eternal, something that’s God. We want the absoluteness of God, the eternity of God, and we can’t fully find it here.

God puts us in a world of passing things where everything changes and nothing remains the same. The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. It’s a hard lesson to learn. It helps us appreciate that everything is a gift. We didn’t create it. We don’t deserve it. It will not last, but while we breathe it in, we can enjoy it, and know that it is another moment of God, another moment of life. People who take this moment seriously take every moment seriously, and those are the people who are ready for heaven. If religion isn’t leading us into an eternal now, an eternal moment, an always-true moment, an always-love moment, then we have not lived the moment at all.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The End of Worlds,” homily, November 15, 2015; and

“A Time of Unveiling,” Four Steps to the Second Coming, Day 1, presentation to Franciscan friars, November 25, 2020, video. Unpublished talk; used with permission.

Story from Our Community:
It was a bitter cold Sunday afternoon when my husband, struggling with hypertension, gently shared with me how my behavior hurt and caused him anxiety. Fortunately, insights from Richard Rohr’s meditations overwhelmed me with peace, allowing me to listen intently. I did need to change. We had a heartwarming conversation. How humbled I felt as a result but how grateful I knew exactly where to turn for guidance on change. The Daily Meditations and love will show me the way. —Mary S.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Frost – Touched Grass (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image statement: This image may not present itself clearly upon first glance. With a closer look shape, color, recognition and new understanding fall into place.
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