The End of the World

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he [i.e. Jesus] said, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”  He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’  Do not follow them!  When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

–Luke 21:5-11–


Every time I hear this Gospel, I think of the lyrics of that tragic Skeeter Davis love song from the 1960’s:


Why do the birds go on singing?

Why do the stars glow above?

Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?

It ended when I lost your love.


Regardless of when the cosmic end of the universe takes place, the world will end for all of us as individuals (I’d say for most of us) within the next eighty years.  The big question is: How will the way I am living now affect my eternal whereabouts then?

Saint Augustine gives us a hint.  He says in Latin: Amor meus pondus meum.  Translation: “My love is my weight.”  What does Augustine mean by that?

Ladies and gentlemen, I hold in my hand a Plexiglas container.  Since most of you can’t see it, I will describe it for you.  On the bottom of the container, there is some clear water.  Floating on the water are two tiny plastic sailboats.  Above the sailboats there is some clear oil, and above that, there is an air bubble.  What we have, then, is heavy water on the bottom, lighter plastic above that, lighter oil above that, and still lighter air above all.  No matter how I turn the container, even if I shake the container, these items will always sort themselves out in exactly this way: water, plastic, oil, air.

What does Saint Augustine mean when he says, “My love is my weight?”  Just as materials in the physical world arrange themselves according to weight—heavy and dense materials sink; lighter materials rise—thus will our love determine our place in the afterlife.  To the extent our love is less conformed to that of Christ, we shall sink.  And there is nothing that draws us down faster than self-centered love.  G.K. Chesterton makes a wonderful pun when he says that “Satan fell by the force of gravity.”[1] In other words, Lucifer took himself far too seriously in making himself the center of the universe.   However, to the extent that our love is more conformed to Christ, we shall rise.  There is nothing that draws us up faster than our desire to surrender to the will of God.  “Angels can fly,” Chesterton says, “because they can take themselves lightly.”[2]  They are eager to recognize God as the center of the universe.  Recall, too, Mary’s Fiat: “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”[3]  Our Lady rose so far as to become the Queen even of angels!

Maybe, then, the old song isn’t that far off the mark after all.  It will be a tragedy.  It will be the end of the world, if we should ever lose God’s love.

[1] Orthodoxy.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Luke 1:38.