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our Lord is fulfilled His covenant and promise, notwithstanding these heavy tidings, that abundance of peace shall be in His kingdom so long as the moon endureth. For in the midst of these wars the meek shall be refreshed in the multitude of peace; in the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace. God is our Hope and Strength, a very present Help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear though the earth be moved, and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea. Though the waters thereof rage and swell, and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the
All these evils, continually arising, are but the commencement of worse calamities, which our Lord calls sorrows, or travail pains. This expression of birth-pains is the figure with which the sufferings of this present time are spoken of. Of these sorrows our Lord spoke to His disciples, A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish. And St. Paul says of all nature, The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in birth-pains. St. Jerome indeed calls them the pains of travail before Antichrist is born; but should we not rather from the above instances in Scripture, and other remarkable passages where the figure occurs,
consider that these, the consummation of all natural evils, are more especially as travailpangs before Christ is formed in His elect, before He has birth in His everlasting kingdom, never again to suffer pain? For the travailpangs our Lord speaks of are to precede the joy that a child is born into the world, and St. Paul also speaks of such in waiting for the adoption of sons; of travailing in birth till Christ be formed in His people.”
And Gould: "Now He comes to those commotions which are apt to be taken by men living in critical times and looking forward to great events, as signs of the future. Be not alarmed. The reason of this injunction is given in what follows, they have to come. These wars and rumours of wars are necessary, being involved in the nature of things; they are always happening, and so men are not to be disturbed by them as if they were things out of the ordinary course to be construed as signs. They are necessary, but they are not signs of the end; the end is not yet.”
First Thought.—Men of this world fondly dream that war can gradually be eliminated from human affairs; that the nations will grow so wise as to perceive its uselessness and the terrible mischief which it brings; they will con
sent to a universal system of arbitration, and peace shall at last reign upon earth. The believer knows better. He knows that human nature cannot regenerate itself, that the Evil One is going to prevail more and more as the time of the end draws near. Wars and rumours of wars are to increase, for men's passions and their selfishness grow with their advance in material civilization. Yet despite the strifes and the constant warfare, the servants of God are not unaware that His promise of peace to them is being fulfilled. There is a deeper life than that which is lived outwardly; in the ways of holy Church, in the devout using of the sacraments, true peace is to be found, and a great confidence in the midst of all outward ills. Even though the hand of earthly warfare be permitted to fall heavily upon the servants of Christ-as has often happened in the past, they are not to be troubled, for when things have become as bad as possible, men are but able to slay the body; there is no more that they can do, and thereby they but set free the happy soul to join its Lord. Nor does the believer fear that the end is close at hand, because of these wars and rumours of wars. Men have no power to bring in the end; not even Satan himself can hasten the last day by a single hour. The end cannot come till God's time is ready,
and it must come in just the way He wills it to
The Church shall endure to the last, despite all the persecutions she may be called upon to bear, and she will to the last minister the divine grace to God's people. No matter how bad things may be, no matter how ominous the outlook, no matter how completely evil may seem to prevail over good, there never can be the least cause for disquietude. God rules, His Church is safe, His people shall never lose the peace He has bequeathed them.
Second Thought.-The Master further warns His followers that “There shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles.” Men are wont to look upon these things as signs of the divine wrath, and of impending judgment. It is well always that we should take them as warnings, reminding us of God's rule over His creatures, and that sooner or later He must call every human being to account for the deeds done in the body. Apart from that, these great natural disasters ought not to terrify us, they neither indicate any power of Satan over God's people, nor yet any wrath of heaven which penitents need fear.
1. The earthquake is an especially terrifying form of visitation. The believer untroubled by physical earthquakes, realizing that God is well
able to safeguard His own, is wont to be greatly disturbed by those spiritual upheavals, and grievous rendings of foundations, which are sometimes experienced in the Church, and perhaps are likely to be more frequently experienced as the time of the end draws near. It would seem sometimes as if the faith itself had perished—men felt so in the old Arian days, when Athanasius stood alone against the world. Perhaps the "impregnable rock of Holy Scripture” itself appears to have been undermined, and to be tottering to its fall. Weak hearts are not to forget the promise of the Master concerning His Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her; and concerning the Scriptures, "My words shall not pass away." The earthquake may apparently make the everlasting hills to tremble, but that is all.
2. And famines. In civilized communities we feel there is no peril of famine, but it is a terribly real calamity in many parts of the world. It does not seem to us now, perhaps, that we are in any danger of being deprived of the divine grace, our blessed sacramental helps, and the adorable Host upon our altars. Nevertheless such things come into Christian experience: and who does not sometimes feel as though he had lost the sustaining help of his religion, and was forsaken of God?