I used to love the History Channel. I loved the re-enactments, description of battles, documentaries on historic figures and the legacies they gave to posterity. Understanding who we were helps us to understand what we are, and sometimes, where we went wrong. Unfortunately, something went wrong at the History Channel. It is obsessed with our demise.
Whether discussing the Mayan calendar predicting 2012 as the end of time, the effects the absence of the moon would have on our poor species, the havoc a giant comet slamming the earth would wreak, or how nicely the planet would green-up once we were wiped out, the History Channel seems to have found a ratings winner in Armageddon. Of course, there are still plenty of historical documentaries and the like, but if prime-time is a network's bread and butter, the end of humankind is definitely smelling like a fresh-baked baguette.
There is historical precedence to this fascination with the end of the world; many have made bold predictions with certainty and authority, all of which have obviously been dead wrong. Nonetheless, each generation a new "prophet" prepares his disciples for the end, sometimes in ridiculously tragic ways. The Jehovah's Witnesses have successfully parlayed the end of the world many, many times, winning converts long enough to remove their ability to reason before the latest prediction once again proves false. Others have induced their followers to take their own lives; San Diego's "Purple Triangle" mass suicide is a notorious example. History has proven over and over again that seemingly intelligent people can be duped into doing some really unintelligent things.
No one knows the day or the hour, that Jesus made very clear. Reality is, for most of us, death is a lot nearer than we think, in the grand scheme of things. The chance a tsunami will wipe out Buffalo, New York tomorrow is very slim. The odds I might get in an automobile accident tomorrow are a little better. I am probably hedging my bets a bit with all the fatty, salty foods I eat, more so than by ignoring the possibility of an asteroid slamming into my garage and leaving nothing but the cockroaches to rule the world. We are a fragile species, prone to illness, suffering, and violence; but the greatest threat to our existence is one that is paid little attention. It is rarely discussed outside religious circles, and even among these it is swept under the rug lest we offend. It is sin.
Sin surrounds us, enslaves us, and leads us to our doom as surely as any false prophet. It destroys our conscience and leaves reason in the dust. It pulls us, little by little, away from God, until the chasm seems unbreachable. It lulls us into a false sense of security, and disintegrates our desire for God and things holy, and when all is said and done, leaves us empty, alone, and devoid of meaning. Evil only hates and destroys.
How should we prepare for the end? Should we be gathering canned goods, water, and supplies in our basements? Should we stockpile weapons and secure our homes? Should our nation spend billions searching for stray comets? None of the above. Stockpile your prayers. Fill up your heart with love of God and neighbor. Seek the forgiveness and mercy of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Strengthen your soul with the Eucharist. Search the heavens for the things that edify. With preparations such as these, no natural disaster or cosmic catastrophe is great enough to separate us from the love of Christ.
"But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone". Matthew 24:36
"Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is long delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." Matthew 24:42-51