Apocalypse Now?

Photography © by Andy Coan

Whenever I lead a trip to the Holy Land, the question inevitably comes, “Will we visit Armageddon?”  This refers, of course, to the battlefield surrounding the ancient city of Megiddo where some think the final confrontation will take place before the end of the world (Revelation 16:16).  Catholics and Protestants alike have a fascination with the Scriptural accounts of the cataclysmic events associated with the end.

The Catholic Church, following the Scriptures, teaches that Jesus will return in glory and this world as we know it will indeed come to a screeching halt, but not before a fierce, cosmic battle in which the Enemy makes his final bid for world domination (CCC 675-677).

But the last battle will not be the only battle.

The truth is that though nature’s four seasons continue to cycle serenely throughout the ages, and men and women, as in the days of Noah, continue to marry and be given in marriage, there is at the heart of history a continual battle going on.  In fact, the battle began before human history, when Michael and his forces swept the legions of Lucifer out of heaven.  There is a reason that we never get tired of love stories – love is of the essence of human life.  There is also a reason that we never get tired of war stories – war has been our constant companion and will be so till the last trumpet.

Many are puzzled when trying to interpret passages like this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 21:5-19), not to mention the entire book of Revelation.  Are Jesus and the inspired writers referring to the end of the world, or rather to the events happening in their own day, such as the destruction of Jerusalem and the persecution of the Church by the pagan Romans?

The answer is not an either/or but rather both/and.  The Antichrist is a future figure who will come at the end.  But he has also worn various masks over the course of time such as the Emperor Nero, Adolph Hitler, and Josef Stalin.  Under the surface of history, the battle is raging.  At certain moments, the fight takes center-stage in the evening news and battle lines become very clear – as in World War II or today’s abortion holocaust.

There are two big mistakes we could make here.  One would be to smugly deny this view of things as just so much apocalyptic hysteria.  The other would be to preoccupy ourselves with speculation over the future battle while neglecting to engage in the battle at hand.  Innocent pre-born babies are being slaughtered on a daily basis; thousands of Christians are imprisoned and tortured worldwide because of their faith, millions are exploited economically, and a secularist propaganda machine mounts a relentless attack on marriage and chastity.  Are we combatants in this struggle or do we sit by the sidelines reading the headlines?

Apocalyptic speculation is a waste of valuable time and energy.  Jesus clearly says “As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it” (Mark 13:32).  It is futile to try to figure it out.  But denying the reality of the current conflict or leaving the combat to others is also a waste of precious time.

We pray for the glorious return of the Lord, for him to come and right all wrongs and bring deliverance and eternal reward.  But Scripture says that “Now he waits until his enemies are placed beneath his feet.” (Hebrews 10:13).  Often a sneaky enemy will not show his true colors and unleash his full might until his back is up against the wall. The final victory will be something that only the Lord himself will accomplish.  But it would seem that he will only come for the coup de grace when we, the members of his body, by the power of his grace, have helped to paint the enemy into a corner through our evangelism, intercession, works of mercy, and social activism.


Editors Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) — Malachi 3:19-20; Psalms 98:5-6, 7-8, 9; Second Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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