Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great
(I Thessalonians 5:1-6.9-11; Luke 4:31-37)
Every once in a while the work of Nostradamus, a sixteenth century French writer, is dusted off to make a prediction of the end of the world. The supposed seer wrote a thousand verses of poetry that are interpreted, most always after the fact, to have prophesized the future. But little from his work can be taken with prior precision to say when or even what events will occur. In the first reading of today’s mass St. Paul tells his readers to dismiss such foretellings of the imminent end of the world.
Paul echoes Jesus in saying that the end will come like a “thief at night.” His readers are thus to stand ready at all times to greet the Lord when he arrives to claim his own. Paul evidently believes that the end will come sooner rather than later, but his point is that the Thessalonians should not make special preparation for that end. Rather, he advises that they stand semper fidelis by living as “children of the light.” That is, he wants the Thessalonians to be a showcase of charity and peace.
We do not know when the world will end. Scientists predict that in hundreds of millions of years the sun will run out of fuel, expand, and engulf the earth in flames before it burns out. But that is only one scenario. It is also possible that the end will come about by a colossal meteor colliding with the earth. What is more likely is that humans will end life on earth through nuclear weapons. We are wise to stay prepared as Paul tells us. There is no need to live in perpetual fear, but there is real reason to practice charity and peace.