There was a lot of talk about the Rapture last week, due to the latest charlatan who tried to convince people he knew the exact day – and hour! – that Christ would return in Glory, in spite of Jesus saying no one could know it. There were lots of jokes about the whole idea, and I admit that I took part in some of them.
But why did people believe Harold Camping when he said this?
There have been plenty of discussions about this whole thing in the Catholic blogosphere, and most are going to be better than mine. (The lovely Elizabeth, the Anchoress, has a good roundup here.) But I wanted to share, anyway, at least what I said to my girls.
I have to say that God has blessed me with two girls who have embraced the Catholic Faith with gusto. They are lightyears ahead of where I was in college, let alone at 12 and 9. Their main reaction to this Rapture idea was laughter. They know that Jesus said no one will know the hour or day; they honestly do not understand why everyone doesn’t believe what the Church teaches.
After discussing with them a bit over the last few months (which is when I finally looked up this May 21 thing) about what the Church does say about the End Times – that we don’t know when it is, that we could die at any time, that we ought to live each day and moment as if it’s our last and be prepared for our Judgement – I asked them to imagine something with me for a bit.
Imagine you encounter the Gospel Message and come to believe it. You’re not Catholic (this I stress to the girls, because they cannot imagine not being so), but you hear of God’s great love, of Christ dying for you on the Cross, that He loves you more than anyone has loved you or ever will love you on this earth. And then you find out that some day, He is going to come and take you to Heaven. This awful world, this place of pain and disappointment and tears and death – a place where tiny children are killed by tornadoes or great-grandmothers forget who you are or where children starve in faraway places where you can’t help them – this place is not your home, and God is going to come for your some day. He’s going to take you away from this sad place and bring you to His Home: Heaven. He’s going to wipe away your tears, take away your sicknesses, and you’ll never be sad or lonely or sick again.
Who wouldn’t want that?
Really, we all want it. It’s what we were made for. Remember your Baltimore Catechism?
6. Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.
We weren’t made for this world. We were made to be with God – to know, love, and serve Him here. To be happy with Him in Heaven.
And so when someone comes and tells you that you can be there – to find the fulfillment that we are all made for – that gives true hope. Hope in Christ. And if you don’t know any better, and you trust this person, when he tells you that you can go soon, that shortly your pains and fears and sorrows will end … that’s an easy thing to grasp at.
So it’s really quite easy to see why people latched on to this idea; they simply want to go Home. They have Hope.
What we need to do, especially as Catholics, is to be ready to present them with the Truth of the Catholic Faith. We need to be ready to help them come to terms with being taken in by a charlatan. Because we have the fullness of the Faith, we have a responsibility to be ready with answers for the reasons behind our hope, and be ready to help others come to understand them.
Understand, too, that none of these people predicted the end of the world on May 21. The prediction was that the world would end in October. Naturally, if it pleases God, it very well could. But it’s all in His time, not our own, and no amount of predicting or building or preaching will force His hand and bring about Christ’s glorious return before God’s planned time.