The Coming Great Tribulation
In the month of November, after All Souls and All Saints day, the Church continues to focus her attention on supernatural things. This Sunday in the readings and prayers we reflect on the final events of history, the end of the world and what that will look like. The prophet Daniel writes that, “It shall be a time of unsurpassed distress, [as never before experienced].” He goes on to describe how at the end, those who, “… sleep in the dust of the earth [all of the dead] shall awake and some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” In the Gospel, Jesus speaks, “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” In the book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse, we read of the Seven Trumpets that will indicate that the end is near and St. John writes that there will be: famine, earthquake, hail and fire, falling starts, locusts, plagues, and four horseman.
Outside of Scripture, I heard someone say this past week that they were certain that we were near the end of the world, because it’s November 18th and there still is no NHL Hockey and also because all of Major League Baseball is talking about the Toronto Blue Jays!
We don’t know for sure what to make of the Signs and We don’t know when
What can we know about the end times? What is going to happen? Are we there now? First, I should mention that it’s very difficult to figure out what all of these signs in the Scriptures really mean. We just don’t know if we are supposed to take these things literally or symbolically or a little bit of both. Second, the Church has never made a claim about when the world will end. Throughout history, many others have tried to predict ‘the end’ but all of them have been wrong. Jesus says in the Scriptures, “… of that day our hour, no ones knows …”
Jesus is the Way through the Great Tribulation and the Small Tribulation
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that talk about the End Times or the Great Tribulation is fruitless. In fact, I think it holds the secret to one of life’s most important dilemmas. We know there will be some kind of Great Tribulation at the end and we know the way through it, Jesus tells us in the same Gospel. What he says is not just the guidebook for the end, but is also the key to getting through our own immediate tribulations today, before the final one. When the end comes, Jesus says, “… then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming the clouds,’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds …” In the midst of the chaos that will come at the end and that also comes now in our own lives, the key to get through all of it is to look for Jesus’ coming. It’s true now as it will be at the end, that we may have to wait for a period of time, but we wait expectantly, knowing that he is coming and that he will make his presence known.
Live of St. Kateri Tekakwitha
I have been waiting ever since October 21st to speak to you about a woman who in her own life experienced many tribulations and found the way through them looking to Jesus. She is one of the newest saints, Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American Saint.
- Kateri was born to a father who was a Mohawk Chief and a Mother who was a Catholic Algonquin in 1656 in a small Native village in what is now the state of New York. At age four the first tribulation struck as her entire village was infected with small pox and many died, including her parents and brother. Kateri managed to fight through the illness, but it left her face permanently scared and her eyes partially blind. Now an orphan, Kateri was sent to her Uncle who was a Chief in a neighbouring tribe.
- Growing up, some of the most powerful memories she had of her childhood were of her mothers faith. She remembered the way that she prayed with such devotion and some of the stories she told her about Jesus.
- To her great delight, a few Jesuit Missionaries came and set up a mission in her new village and as a young woman she was able to receive Baptism and learn more about Jesus. The more she heard, she was set on fire with a deep passion and love for Jesus.
- But, then something terrible happened, another tribulation. Her new family and tribe came under attack as the colonialist’s expanded west. The tribe separated themselves from everything about these new people, including their religion. But Kateri could not and became an outcast inside of her own community. People who she loved, would no longer speak to her. On Sunday’s, she would try to spend extra time in prayer as it was the Lord’s Day, and as a punishment the community would not let her join in any of their meals, and so she went hungry every Sunday.
- Eventually, things became too difficult and Kateri, after much prayer, made the tough decision to leave her community. She had heard of a Christian Community of Natives somewhere north and set out on what would be a two month journey through treacherous terrain and danger. But she made it and was filled with such joy to find other faithful Christians. It is there that she was able to go to Mass again, to pray in the Church. She made crosses from small branches and taught children the stories of Jesus. She was known to say, “Show me the will of God, that I might do it.”
- But, at the age of 24 Kateri experienced her final tribulation as she contracted an illness that would take her life. Just before, surrounded by priests and her Christian friends praying for her and with her, she said her last words, “Jesus I love you.” Then a few moments after she died, to the amazement of all, her face which had been so scared, cleared up and became radiant. Today, her remains are reserved in a small church near to where she died outside of Montreal.
We are certain that there will be a great tribulation, it’s spoken of in several places throughout the Holy Scriptures. We aren’t sure exactly how it will happen and we don’t know exactly when. But, just as important as the final tribulation are our own smaller and immediate tribulations. The way through them is the same as the way through the great tribulation, it’s what St. Kateri discovered, that by focusing on Jesus and sometimes even waiting patiently for him, we can get through any difficulty.