Bishop Bernardo Bastres Florence of Punta Arenas Chile gave a whimsical interview to his local newspaper Wednesday.
He offered the thought that Mayan prophecy believers who think that the world will end on December 21 should consider doing some good before they go. His tongue-in-check suggestion was that they should give all the worldly possessions that they think they’ll be leaving behind to the Church.
I would like to be able to say that I don’t think anyone seriously believes that the world is going to end on December 21. I would really like to be able to say that. But I represent thousands of people who often feel free to share their thoughts with me, which means I know — know — that there are folks who are biting their nails down to the quick over the prospect of it all screeching to a halt in a few days.
It doesn’t do much good to reason with them. I know from experience that when they wake up December 22, they won’t think through to the simple and obvious conclusion that they were wrong. They’ll just get up and go on with their lives, cosseted in the peculiar amnesia of those who like to be fooled. Then, when someone dreams up another doomsday scenario, they’ll be biting their nails once again.
In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the whole thing. There’s nothing more fun than the thrill of pretend cataclysm. That’s why we love disaster films and sit glued to the television whenever some real life nightmare happens to someone else. It’s a safe way of dealing with our secret and usually unacknowledged fear of the very real death that awaits us all. It also, I think, is a way of facing without having to face the dread uncertainty of our seemingly predictable lives.
I’m not immune to this. I love watching shows and reading books about people surviving snake bites and facing ridiculous perils while doing totally daft things like hiring guides to get their amateur climbing selves to the top of Mt Everest. It’s no accident that I watch these particular shows and read these particular books. I’m afraid of both snakes and heights, so watching others face my anxieties is a type of medicine for me.
However, being a Christian takes a lot of the sting out of this death thing. Not all of it, certainly. There’s so much we don’t know, and there is also the fact that there’s no easy way to do it. Dying is hard, and usually painful. It is also, I think, lonely. So, no, I don’t view the fact that I’m going to have to do it with equanimity.
But I’m far more sanguine than the December-21-is-The-End-crowd. I don’t need to imagine an end of the world. I know that I’ve got one coming. My end of the world will come on the day and at the moment that I die. I know that. I also know that while this date and time are dreadfully uncertain and unpredictable to me, they are known to God and that He has me in the palm of His hand. I know, as St Paul said, Whom I have believed, and I trust that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.
For those who can’t quite wrap their minds around this idea that if you are a Christian, death has no sting, getting fired up about the Mayans and the vagaries of their calendar is an easy way to distract themselves. It will work. For a time. Then they will forget it until the next nutso end of time theory crops up and they can go off on that.
As for me, I intend to watch and smile.
The CNA/EWTN article about Bishop Forence’s comments reads in part:
Santiago, Chile, Dec 12, 2012 / 11:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Bernardo Bastres Florence of Punta Arenas, Chile has an interesting suggestion for those convinced that the world will end Dec. 21, as predicted by the Mayan calendar.According to local newspaper La Prensa Austral, the bishop said that those who believe the Mayan prophecy should donate their worldly goods to the Church.
“If there are many who believe the world will end on Dec. 21, as the Church, we have no problem with them naming us as the beneficiaries of their possessions in their wills,” he quipped in a Dec. 9 interview.
Doomsday predictions about the end of the world, as documented by the Mayans, have circulated in recent years and grown in popularity. The Mayan Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., which accounts for time in 394-year periods known as Baktuns. The Mayans allegedly believed that the last, or 13th Baktun, ends Dec. 21, 2012.
To those who are convinced that the world is ending next week, Bishop Bastres said “I assure them that after Dec. 21, we will eternally pray for them.”
“Because I am sure that we will all be alive after that date. If they wish to pass on, they could do enormous good by donating their properties to the Church.” (Read more here.)