At some point during this Advent season, there will undoubtedly be a priest somewhere with a smattering of biblical-critical trivia he picked up in seminary who will confidently inform his congregation that Paul changed his mind on the coming of Christ.
Early on in his ministry, he’ll say, Paul believed Christ would return soon, during Paul’s own lifetime . . . .
Later, however, it is claimed, Paul supposedly came to the disappointed realization that Christ was not returning “soon,” and that he (Paul) would be dead when Christ came. . . . .
Confused parishioners may then be allowed to swing hopelessly in the winds of confusion. There’s nothing some people like better than showing how much more intellectually sophisticated they are than the supposedly “naive” early Christians.
Oh those early Christians, oh those early Christians (to the tune of Oh Dem Golden Slippers) . . .
What do do? Well, for starters keep this in mind:
The Catholic way of reading Scripture is based on the faith that Scriptures weren’t merely a random jumble of books by various authors gathered together by some Church bureaucrat in the Fourth Century, but that the Holy Spirit inspired all of it, so that we can use texts from one book to illuminate our reading of others.
What Christ tells us in the Gospels about the end times is that “no one knows the day or the hour” (so for the life of me I can’t figure out why people keep listening to people who claim they do); that it will “come like a thief in the night;” that in the meantime, we should, like the wise virgins, “keep oil in our lamps,” “be sober,” and “stay alert,” for when the time comes, a man on his roof won’t have time to come down and go inside. There’ll be no time for grabbing one’s coat or packing up a few nice things for the trip. When it’s time to go, it will be time to go.
we should live our lives, caring for our children, planning prudently for the future, finishing our little projects, and doing all those things that we can do to be “provident” in the image of the God in whose divine providence we participate.
And yet at every moment we should also be asking ourselves the ultimate . . . question: If Jesus were to return right now, and I were to be asked to give an account of my life and my soul, what would I want the Lord to find me doing and thinking about?