My final reflections from my retreat at Oka had to do with the very theme of this blog, “Waiting in Joyful Hope”. I was reflecting on a homily I recently heard, and I realised why it bugged me so much. In it the speaker offered the usual platitude that we Christians have to act to “make the world a better place”. Now I agree with this, in the sense that I don’t want us acting to make the world a worse place. But is that really the end goal? When I hear preachers say we need to work to “build the Kingdom of God”, what do they really mean?
You see, the Bible has some pretty clear predictions about the End Times, and in them the world does not gradually progress to greater and greater levels of goodness and enlightenment (à la Star Trek). Yes, the world does grow wealthy, and there is some sense even of global peace and a worldwide political union, but for all this the world also becomes decadent, unjust, and ultimately cruel. The terrors of the End Times come because Man ultimately fails in his utopian ventures, seduced as he is by sin. Yes, the world finally does become a “better place”, but thanks to the return of Christ in glory….not thanks to economic or political pseudo-messianism.
A few parishioners of mine were recently on social justice trips to Latin America, and one of them took part in a faith-sharing exercise on what factors could most powerfully be applied to change the situation of the people for the better. Among his answers he included “The Second Coming of Christ”, and he was looked at somewhat askance for this…..almost as though the concept of the Second Coming was an “opiate” preventing people from working to improve their lot. Dialectical materialism, anyone?
I’ve decided I have no interest in “making the world a better place”. I don’t want to be a contributing architect for a utopian City of Man, I want to be a prophetic herald for the coming City of God. This isn’t just in words, but in actions — I consider Mother Teresa a prophet through every life she touched, even if she was only rarely in front of a podium. And if through my efforts I can help hasten the day of that glorious Coming (although I’m not really sure how that might be), then that’s what I want to be doing.