For some, the second coming of Christ can act as an excuse to defer dealing with our problems and our neighbors' problems on a systemic level, for surely Christ will take care of them when Christ comes. All that's important is that we hang in there, following God's commandments until either we die or the Rapture happens, whichever comes first. If we succeed at that, we win the game, and if the rest of the world goes to hell in a handbasket, well so be it, as long as we faithfully executed our own duties to spread the Gospel and save souls, as long as we've spent that time doing our works of mercy, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, as Jesus directed us. "Politics," the desire to engage power and wrestle it out of the hands of the oppressors, can become a dirty word.
This type of worldview has the ability to produce powerful saints: the Dorothy Days and Mother Teresas of the world, the St. Clares and the St. Francises, those who trust in God to take care of the big picture and go about living out their vocation by performing one small service after one small service, feeding the hungry one person at a time. "How the final solution will be brought about is in God's hands," wrote Day in 1959. "The immediate solution will always be the works of mercy."
These types of women and men are called to an important vocation, and their example is one which should inspire and uplift us, and thus holds in it the power to change the world. But it is naive, I think, to think that it can change this sick and fallen world all on its own, and to wait for Christ to have wrought these changes is to put God to the test over what can be performed by human hands.
Where would the Catholic Worker movement be without its newspaper, its attempt to remake the world, to shake it up even beyond the streets of New York City, to change society as a whole radically and fundamentally? We cannot forget that even as the fight for social justice is personal, so too is it political. It requires--as Day and Teresa and Clare and Francis all knew full well--an engagement with the world: rewriting laws, shifting cultural norms, changing the way we as a society use language by coming up with new vocabularies. Setting the example as Christians who love one another and care for our neighbors is an absolutely necessary prerequisite, but it is a beginning, not an end. We cannot rest on the laurels of our works of mercy. We must lobby; we must demonstrate; we must protest; we must agitate; we must vote and encourage others to vote; we must educate. We must not only feed the hungry, but also work to end hunger. Not only visit those in prison, but reform the prison system.
We must, as Mahatma Ghandhi said, be the change we want to see in the world. We must make social justice happen.
There's another way of telling the end to the story of Christ's involvement in the world, a way of telling it in which it is not a mere deus ex machina where the benign God arrives and sets everything right because we are too depraved to do it ourselves. It is an eschatology that's focused not on messianic expectations in a distant future, but an ongoing rebirth in the here and now: not a realized eschatology nor an unrealized eschatology, but an eschatology continually in the process of being realized. And we're the ones who are doing the realizing. The story of Christ's return, the lesson of the fig tree (Luke 21), the promises made to the Hebrews, these stories are important because they fill us with joyful optimism in telling us that a redeemed world is possible, to allow us to be a forward-looking people, but it falls to us to be active agents in the world's redemption.
It is not only Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, not only Christ, of one Being with the Parent God, who is called to "execute justice and righteousness in the land" in the apocalyptic vision of the Christian Church, to be the "righteous branch" risen up for David (Jer. 33:14-16). It is the Church itself, holy, catholic, and apostolic. It is all of us. We are called to change the world.
The coming of Christ is not an event which exists solely in the past, in a Christmas night millenia past, or in the future, in a triumphant, rapturous return. The coming of Christ is, instead, a constant process which is always going on, a continual revelation of God through Christ and Christ's Spirit as God works in and through the world. The liturgical calendar recognizes this fact as each year we wait anew for Christ's coming in the season of Advent, and celebrate it anew in the season of Christmas. And we, the followers of Christ throughout the world, we the Church, we who are the Body of Christ, we are the agents, the vehicle of that coming.
"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best." -- "St. Paul's" [deutero-Pauline] Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10
"Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD." -- First Isaiah 1:18
Jesus the Christ was asked about SIGNS of His SECOND COMING and the "end of the (CHURCH) age.
Here is the bottom line...(extracts with MY interpretation!)
Matthew 24 (NASB)...Jesus' Parable of the Fig Tree “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; (fruit is ripe to fall) so, you (disciples) too, when you see ALL these THINGS, (SEE: Matthew 24:1-32!!!) recognize that He (Jesus) is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation (Church's "end of the age"...SEE: verse 3) will not pass away until all these things (tribulations) take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (and not us!) For the (Second) Coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood ...they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. THEN (RETURN + RAPTURE?) there will be two men in the field; ( 1 believer + 1 unbeliever ...BEFORE tribulations?) one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.