Truly? Is there a way we can feel fine about worlds ending, whether it’s The World, or pieces of ours? I don’t know about fine, but I do believe we can attain a spiritual quality of trust and disentanglement that allows us to meet all kinds of circumstances with serenity. And serenity is what we need!
Some of the shock in what Jesus said about the temple being destroyed as a sign of the end (he doesn’t actually say the end of the world…), is that the temple was so solid and so central to his followers' identity. How can something so vital and real become as nothing? Even our grandest buildings, even the institutions they represent, even the hopes and dreams of those who are invested in those institutions, are among the things of this world which are passing away.
And – shock of shocks – so are we. We believe we have a future beyond this world, but our time here is finite. (Here is a video reminder of how small we really are in the grand scheme.) When we truly integrate that knowledge into our being, when we truly see each day as a gift to be received in full, not only as a step along the way to another gift tomorrow, we begin to attain that serenity that allows us to meet the darkest times. This is that spiritual quality of apatheia that the desert monastics of the 2nd and 3rd centuries spoke about, that holy equanimity that we cultivate as we learn to let go of our agendas and receive God’s life and dreams for us.
Are there things or people or situations about which you find it impossible to feel peaceful? What a day to ask that question! Could you invite God to give you peace even around these matters? What would that look like or feel like? Try to imagine it…
St. Ambrose of Milan, a wonderful 4th century bishop, had a beautiful image for this in one of his sermons on baptism. He says the newly baptized are to be like fish:
“Imitate the fish,” he says. “It is in the sea and above the waves. It is in the sea and swims on the waters. On the sea the tempest rages, violent winds blow; but the fish swims on. It does not drown because it is used to swimming. In the same way, this world is the sea for you. It has various currents, huge waves, fierce storms. You too must be a fish, so that the waves of this world do not drown you.”
Even in the face of devastation and loss of all we hold dear, our faith invites us to proclaim the love of a God who weeps with those who weep, who strengthens those who work for recovery, who invites us to look beyond what we can see to a reality of love and restoration we can only dimly glimpse. In Christ, we truly are fine. No matter what. No matter when.
Swim today, my friends. Swim into God’s peace, into God’s purpose, into God’s future for us - which will be whatever today's outcome.