‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the turmoil of the ocean and its waves; men fainting away with terror and fear at what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’ And he told them a parable, ‘Look at the fig tree and indeed every tree. As soon as you see them bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is now near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that the kingdom of God is near. In truth, I tell you, before this generation has passed away all will have taken place. Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come down on all those living on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of man.’ – Luke 21: 25-36
Inevitably our lives will pass through times of confusion and chaos; times in which we lose our points of reference; times in which important things come to an end. Times in our lives when we feel overcome with fear and anxiety like we’re falling through a void.
This can happen when we lose someone dear to us, when a relationship we had invested in comes to an end, when we feel we’ve been deceived or when illness and suffering knock on our door.
And there are times when the confusion and chaos are not only our own but are shared, such as this time we’re living in when we find ourselves vulnerable to threats beyond our control. We sense danger without knowing where it is. We have entrusted our lives to others and there’s nothing else we can do.
Chaos has no form. It’s something de-formed, ugly and inevitably frightening. And yet, everything begins with chaos. Chaos is possibility. All of Creation began with chaos: there were no reference points, no sun, no moon, no stars.
Maybe Jesus is referring to that initial chaos in this, his final discourse. And perhaps it’s no coincidence that it’s also his last. The most important things are always said at the end and, above all, we try to remember how it all began: chaos became beauty, cosmos. God not only gave order, but also form (both cosmos in Greek and forma in Latin are related to beauty; cosmos has the same root as cosmetic and forma becomes formosus, meaning beautiful). Could God reform the chaos of my life one more time? This is the question in the time of the apocalypse, that is, in the apocalyptic times through which our lives will inevitably pass.
The end is always a dramatic time: it asks you if you’ve said everything you needed to say, if you’ve written what you wanted, if maybe you could have said it differently. But alas, that page is turned. It must be concluded so that another chapter may begin. If the grain of wheat doesn’t die… nothing new may come if we do not decide to welcome the end of things. Oftentimes relationships, much like wars, drag on: we are willing to claim victims, but refuse to ask for a truce.
Welcoming the end is impossible, even cruel, if our gaze does not look beyond it. If our gaze broods over the written pages without contemplating the whiteness of the new ones, without tasting the beauty of a word that has just begun to be written, like a seed, opening yet hidden in its silence.
And to avoid watching as the open space on the last page grows ever smaller, we prefer to numb ourselves, to sleep. How many things do we prefer not to see! A newborn seeks refuge in sleep to confront the fatigue of this world in which it has suddenly found itself in. And so we continue to sleep. We’ve developed the strategy of sleeping to defend ourselves from the difficulties of life. We live sleepily, enclosed in our fantasies. Life rolls over us and we continue sleeping. Perhaps it’s not by chance that Jesus invites us unceasingly in the Gospel to wake up and be vigilant. In the end, he who sleeps never lives life fully; Jesus meanwhile invites us to reclaim our lives.
But when we are not sleeping, we seem to be in a daze. We inebriate ourselves with relationships, we empty the bottles of pleasure, we weigh ourselves down with our endless complaints. We’ve stopped seeking the meaning of things. We prefer to just use them. And life slips away.
The time of confusion and of chaos shakes us, it generates fear and anxiety for life needs our attention. The time when everything falls apart can also be the time of liberation. It can be the time of awakening and lucidity. The apocalypse is the time of the revelation, but first of all a revelation of what we’re made of, of our fears and desires. Therefore, if something is coming to an end in our lives, we must avoid getting drunk or climbing into bed in a dark room. Rather we must begin to think about how to begin the next chapter that we want to write.
Questions for reflection:
– How do I live when something important comes to an end in my life?
– Do I try to react or do I become disheartened?
Featured Image: Jonathan Emmanuel Tarello @ Flickr