I remember when I was growing up I used to be fascinated, yet afraid of the end times. I used to watch those shows about Nostradamus and his prophesies regarding various apocalyptic events he said would occur, and I remember his predictions of the three antichrists – those individuals who would rise to power and be beloved by their people, and then lead to catastrophic death and destruction.
He is said to have predicted Napolean Bonaparte as the first antichrist, leading to the rise of the French empire and widespread wars and destruction. The second antichrist he is said to have predicted was Adolf Hitler, who again, left a path of widespread death and destruction culminating in World War II. And the third antichrist is supposedly among us yet to be exposed. I remember being scared, wondering who this third antichrist would be and when they would expose themselves. Would that mean the end of the world? What would it be like? Where would it occur?
I was in my teens, and unfortunately back then, my faith had not really yet evolved, and on top of that, I was very curious. As world events would unfold over the years, I would think to myself, is this the time? And then I would think, would Jesus really come and save us? Would He come down from Heaven and fight and overcome this third antichrist, ending all evil? Lots of good things for a high school kid to contemplate.
Today, I look at this from a different angle. So many people online and in media continue to be enamored with things like this – Nostradamus, the Bible code, and other “prophets” simply in order to gain viewers and sell books or get attention. So many people waste time wondering and worrying about what the future will hold and searching for signs as to what will happen, that they lose sight of the present day and what it right in front of them. People have become so infatuated with trying to identify who these antichrists are and when this third one may identify his/her self, that they lose sight of the fact that it may have already been exposed in a quieter way.
In the first reading, John speaks of antichrists, saying:
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.”
Perhaps its not one antichrist, or two, or even three, but many. They are everywhere. Look at the world. Sure, Napolean and Hitler both lead to unfathomable amounts of death and destruction, and there is no shortage of candidates in todays world who could be this third antichrist. But when looking at what St. John is saying in his first letter, he is saying the antichrists are numerous, and they came from us. They are among us.
“They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number.”
Take one look at the world and read the front page of any newspaper or online news website – the world is filled with antichrists. There is so much death, hate, pride, anger, greed, destruction, and sexual perverseness in this world that is all “anti-to-Christ”. And we are all a part of it. So while we may focus on the TV shows and books that try to predict who these people are in this world, who the antichrists are and who will lead to massive destruction, perhaps we’re looking in the wrong direction. Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong place. Perhaps we need to look in the mirror, and look all around us.
You see, this is the goal of Satan that we focus so much on identifying and eliminating one evil that we overlook those evils that may be all around us, and within us, that might be a little more subtle. What Napolean did was destructive. What Hitler did was horrifying, and what ISIS, or what countless other terrorist regimes around the world are doing today is downright brutal.
But what we tolerate in our so-called advanced, free and democratic societies in the name of freedom and tolerance is just as horrifying, especially because it has happened so quietly. Abortion, Contraception, Pornography – All contributing to the degradation of the dignity of women, and what it means to be a woman. Giving into greed, and our selfish pride all at the expense of our youth – All contributing to the degradation of fathers and our sons. This is all just as horrifying. It may not be as immediate and shocking, but it is devastating to a society nonetheless.
The antichrists are among us. We are them. We are all sinners and we do things and say things in this world that are truly anti-to-Christ. We know the way, and we’ve been taught the way, either from birth, or more recently for some of us. As John said in his gospel today:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
And then God came in the form of His son, which we still celebrate during this Christmas season, but we still sometimes choose to go against Him. We still choose to move away from Him.
As you read this it is New Years Eve, and we are facing the end of another year. It is the last hour. What has this year been for you? Have you been Christ-like this year and chosen to do His will and be like Him amidst all your trials? Against what may be more popular? Or have you given in to the world around you and chose to do things that were anti-to-Christ? Did you make choices that you knew were wrong and regret?
The good news is, it’s a new year! It’s a new day! We are still celebrating Christmas and the new beginning that God presented for us.
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”
God sent us His son to show us the truth and to be our light. We can start anew and seek to be more like Him. We can continue to embrace the Sacraments to receive His grace and become more like Christ. We can choose to ask forgiveness and to make a fresh start. And this isn’t just with January 1st and the start of a new year, but we as Catholics have the opportunity to do this any time we need through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We can receive His Body and Blood any day we want to, and come more in communion with Him. Again, this is our gift.
I think back to those days when I was younger and those people today who wonder about the end times and try to predict the future. Are there evils in this world? Of course. Major evils.
But I now think back to what a wise Man once said – “beware of false prophets…”, and “don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for day is its own evil.” Some day, the end times may come. But if we seek God’s truth and seek to be more like Jesus as opposed to not-like Him, well, that’s all the God asks of us, and all that we need to worry about. Lets pray that 2015 is a blessing filled year for each of us and that we all choose to be more like Christ.