ColumnsNaming Grace

The Alpha and the Omega

“End stage,” he said. My heart sank; “Really? So, this is the beginning of the end.” The end of being greeted by his bright smile, the end of hearing his voice, the end of kissing him on the forehead. “We’re moving,” she said. My gut ached; “What? So, this is the beginning of the end.” The end of her saintly presence at morning Mass, the end of “surprise” St. Nicholas Day packages, the end of quiet words of wisdom. “End times,” they say. My head shakes: “So, this is the beginning of the end.” The end of the world, the end of this good earth, the end of life as we know it.

Last week we heard of end times: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in heavens will be shaken.” This Sunday’s readings, however, take us beyond end times with Daniel’s prophecy of “one like a son of man coming, … His dominion is an everlasting dominion.” The Book of Revelation reveals the Son of Man as Jesus, “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.”

The Alpha and the Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end, represents the wholeness of revelation, the completion of creation, the fullness of truth. Christ is the beginning through whom all things were created, and the end as the final destiny of all things, including each of us. United to Christ, “the firstborn of the dead,” each beginning leads to an ending, and each ending leads to a new beginning. Jesus teaches us, through his cross and resurrection, that only by dying to self will we rise to new life.

Beth Haile, a young woman, wife, mother, moral theologian and friend, writes with faith and realism on facing her end time in “A Reflection on Terminal Diagnosis”: “I am going to die. … My life is too short to end, but it has been a good — no, a great life. … I have come to know and to love a great God. And when everything else ends, I am going to keep knowing Him.” She concludes: “People are saying that they are praying for a miracle, but I know the miracle has already happened and pretty soon my eternity is going to be Easter morning.”

We weep when a loved one dies; we ache when a friend moves; we cry when we lose a job; we sigh for a broken marriage. Yet with Christ, we trust all endings — somehow, someway — lead to new beginnings. Even now, as my father prepares for his end time, his newest great-grandson took his first breath. Faith paves the way of life; love never ends.

Holding his hand, we spoke gently, “Dad, I know you’re dying, but I don’t think it’s today.” He smiled and whispered, “No. Not today.” Will he have days, weeks, or months? Who knows? Any one of us may die before him. As Jesus forewarned, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Only God knows our end time, but with Jesus, the King of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, walking beside us, all endings lead to new beginnings — to resurrection. Now, that’s good news!

To read Beth Haile’s entire reflection:

How have you experienced new beginnings through Christ?

What will you teach your children about end times?