NrOT since Our Lord Himself J. I spoke the words written in the two Sunday Gospels which end and begin the Chureh's year has any generation had a better chance than our own of understanding that the story of mankind has an ending, and, very possibly, a rather sudden ending.
Since we can have no idea of the day when the world will be brought to an end in the dramatic manner which Christ foretold, it would be as foolish to suppose that man's present ability to exploit atomic energy, for good or ill, is a prelude to the Last Day and Christ's Second Advent, as it was for our forefathers to expect this at the end of the first millennium. But the words of Our Lord are there, clearly enough, and they were spoken and recorded for our instruction. Indeed, their moral is quite evident. We are called upon to live, not only in terms of the end of the world for each of us when we come to die, but also in terms of the end of the world itself, always at hand, always an immediate possibility.
If Our Lord's prophecy of the Last Day and Final Judgment means anything, it means that the world will be weighed and judged, and it means that the Christian has a constant responsibility for the way of that world, and not for his own soul only in detachment from the fate of the world, THIS responsibility was clear I enough from the beginning of the Church until the high Middle Ages. But then came a gradual break. With the slow growth of new ideas and new discoveries, the spiritual tradition of Christendom was edged off the centre of the world's picture.
Today we are living in a world, guided as to its main evolution, almost wholly in terms of secularist values. Even worse, the scientific discoveries that have so immensely increased man's power for good or evil have equally increased the importance for good or evil of our secularist political and social principles, almost entirely detached from the values revealed in the Gospels.
We are facing the consequences —consequences to be seen in our era of world wars, violent nationalisms, class conflicts between exploiters of new wealth and the mass of toilers who produce it. But just at this moment the world is facing a critical choice which seems to resume in itself the very essence of the tragedy of its situation : the conflict for the good and constructive use of atomic energy or for its exploitation as a means of obliterating the achievement of centuries, of the greater part of the human race, even perhaps of the world in which man can live at all. WE cannot foretell the future, V and we have already said that no value can be attached to feelings that the end of the world is somehow related to man's possession of these unprecedented powers of using the very energy of nature itself; yet it is not empty speculation to say that if the battle for the control of atomic energy for the good, rather than the ill, of mankind is lost, then the world may indeed witness an "abomination of desolation," physically even more terrible than any envisaged by Daniel the Prophet. What that will mean in God's plans we cannot know, but the possibility is surely terrible enough to make us pause, and ask ourselves whither the world is going, if it is unable to halt the present drift to division, war and destruction.
Yet the very fact of a Final Judgment of .mankind and his history which God Incarnate revealed to us involves the Christian realisation that there is always a spiritual and moral choice before mankind, just as there is always one before each individual soul in his short earthly life.
However hard it may be to see the possibility of such a choice after generations of nerveless drift into self contradictory secularist ideals, we know that mankind can always still choose, that the fact of the Second Advent of Chr,ist ever keeps before the world an immense hope.
One wonders sometimes how far even Christians themselves remember this. Secularism and Godlessness offer man false hopes of a Marxist Utopia or of a world of progress from which all poverty and toil will be eliminated; and the mere offer of this hope deludes millions into service. But have we Christians forgotten to preach to men the Christian hope? Have we forgotten it ourselves—except for the personal end of rescuing our own souls from the general disaster?
If so, how could we expect to rouse the world again to action that can defeat the evils of Marxism, Socialism, Capitalism and the illusion of Utopia round the next corner but one? How can we fight against the despair and drift of those who realise the deception of all this?
The Last Day and the Second Advent, which we too often prefer to forget, are the final Christian hope and expectation, and a working Christianity, deprived of these, has little to offer the world save personal rescue from it.
The time has surely come when these truths revealed by Christ should form living parts of our Christian faith so that once again Christian hope can he preached to a tottering world.