The end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it
and I feel fine.
R.E.M.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven
and the former earth had passed away.
Revelation 21: 1

 Today’s second reading from Revelation, reflecting Isaiah 65: 17-25 and Isaiah 25: 6-8, is one of my favorite passages, full of hope.

The promise that “God will wipe every tear from their eyes” always touches me deeply. We have a compassionate God who wants and promises something altogether different, altogether new.

When I spoke at the Antioch retreat for college students at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa, I often recalled this passage and connected it with R.E.M.’s somewhat mysterious song which seems to reflect the problems of the old world and its values:

… world serves its own needs,
dummy serve your own needs…

… Save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs…

If it is the end of the world as we know it, with all its injustice and selfishness rampant, if a new heaven and a new earth are promised, that can help us live in a different way in the midst of the old earth.

But, if God is making all things new, how do we respond?

I think a verse from today’s Gospel, John 13: 34, offers us the way.

I give you a new commandment:
love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you also should love one another.

If we begin to live this new call to love, we will begin to offer signs of the new heavens and the new earth in the midst of the world as we know it.

And we will begin to feel fine – even if loving hurts, for our God present with us will wipe away all our tears.

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