Splendid Sundays: Catholics and the Rapture

Today’s Mass Readings, with a reflection below.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 154

Reading 1           Wis 6:12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

Responsorial Psalm      Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
I will remember you upon my couch,
and through the night-watches I will meditate on you:
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading 2      1 Thes 4:13-18

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive,
who are left until the coming of the Lord,
will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command,
with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God,
will come down from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another with these words.

or 1 Thes 4:13-14

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

Gospel           Mt 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”


Assumption of the Holy Virgin, Peter Paul Rubens 1626

This has been quite a year for end of times predictions.  For some of us, this is the first time we’ve been old enough (or at least aware enough) to observe the degree to which some groups of Christians believe “the rapture” will come in our lifetime.  It may feel like a new phenomenon, however there have literally been people in every generation since Jesus’s First Coming who believed that they would be the ones to receive the honor of being assumed into Heaven before death.

Catholics believe in a “rapture” too, as it is quite clear in the Bible and in Apostolic Teaching.  Whenever Christ returns, those among “the elect” in the Church Militant will be assumed body and soul into Heaven just like the Blessed Virgin.  However, there are two places of distinction between the Catholic view of the end of times (eschatology) and the view of those Christians who devised this year’s billboards.


Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…

St. Paul, Colossians 1:24

The first distinction deals with the placement of the “tribulation”; will it be before or after the “rapture”?  Scripture clearly describes a period of great suffering at the end of times.  Some Christians believe that the none of God’s faithful will have to endure the tribulation, and instead they will be raptured before hand such that only the non elect will be left behind to endure the reign of Satan.  However, Catholic theology embraces the role of redemptive suffering and does not shy away from Christians enduring great, great suffering.  We have a 2000 year history filled with saints who endured amazing persecution and martyrdom all for the Truth and the Glory of God.  We fully expect that during the tribulation we will remain here to minister to those who will fall into despair, we will remain to continue spreading the Gospel.  Thankfully, our Lord has already provided mercy for us during this time of tribulation, as Jesus consoles, “And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect they will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)  God clearly knows that His faithful can sustain a tribulation, but He also has recognized their limitations by shortening the time period of desolating abomination.

The second distinction between those in the imminent end of times “camp” (did you catch the joke?), is that we truly heed the words of Jesus:

* Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day you Lord will come. Matt 24:42
* So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Matt 24:44
* But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,
but the Father alone.
Matt 24:36
* Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matt 25:13

We are commanded to be prepared for Christ’s seconding coming as if it is is to happen in our lifetime, however, even Jesus was too humble to boast when it would be!  Now, don’t get this text wrong, it is not denying the oneness of the Trinity, it is however demonstrating the humility of Jesus’s human nature, a humility we would do well to imitate.  If even Jesus is to be so humble about when He will return, how then, if we are to follow His example, can we boast any approximation for His return?  This is exalting one’s self and knowledge above the example set by Jesus!

So, in the meantime let us be among the five virgins with oil in their lamps, ready for our Master at any time!  Let our souls thirst for our God, and let us bless Him while we live!  Let us stay awake, waiting for Wisdom at dawn, by His gate!  For whenever His coming may be, whether it be tomorrow or many generations from now, we will be basking in His glory, body and soul forever!

Disclaimer: This post was finished early and scheduled to automatically post on Sunday. The third commandment was not broken in the creation of this edition of Splendid Sundays =D.

  • RachelNovember 6, 2011 - 7:16 am

    We attended Holy Mass last night, and our married Deacon gave the homily. I was incredibly disappointed when the first sentence out of his mouth was, “Many people believe this gospel reading is about the end of days, but I don’t think it is….”. Thank you for your insight and refreshing reminders. I LOVE being Catholic!ReplyCancel

  • AdrienneNovember 6, 2011 - 7:33 am

    Rachel, so I am curious… what DID he think it was about?

    Thanks for your enthusiasm (fun to read first thing in the morning!) and thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • RachelNovember 6, 2011 - 9:31 am

    Unfortunately I couldn’t tell you. That sentence totally distracted my thoughts to my personal feelings about the permanent diaconate and then my kiddos did the rest. I didn’t hear too much of the homily, but what I caught it was more of a do good works kind of thing.ReplyCancel

  • JoanNovember 6, 2011 - 12:02 pm

    Thanks Adrienne for this reflection this morning and the reminder to us to always be prepared as we have one eye on today and one eye on our eternal lives.ReplyCancel

  • AdrienneNovember 7, 2011 - 7:19 am

    Rachel, I completely understand about the distracting kiddos. One day we’ll hear homilies again 😉

    Joan, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!ReplyCancel

  • AngelaApril 27, 2015 - 11:02 pm

    Catholics know that the bestselling “Left Behind” books and movies have grossly perverted Catholicism’s biblical “rapture” doctrine – the only “rapture” view before 1830.
    The 2000-year-old Catholic “rapture” (the “caught up” in I Thess. 4:17) occurs AFTER the final “tribulation” (post-tribulation) while the 185-year-old evangelical Protestant “rapture” supposedly occurs BEFORE it (pre-tribulation) and is said to be “imminent.”
    All Catholics should read journalist Dave MacPherson’s “The Rapture Plot” (available by calling 800.643.4645) – the most accurate documentation on the history of the pretrib rapture which began in British cultic circles in 1830. By twisting Scripture, this new doctrine gave folks the (false) hope of being evacuated from earth before the chaos found in the book of Revelation.
    “The Rapture Plot” reveals, for the first time, how a Plymouth Brethren historian, after John Darby’s death, secretly and dishonestly changed the earliest “rapture” writings of the Irvingites (the first group publicly teaching a pretrib rapture) so that he could wrongfully credit P.B. leader Darby with “dispensationalism” as well as with that rapture view! (Some still view Darby as the “father of dispensationalism” even though MacPherson’s book amply proves that Darby wasn’t first or original with any crucial aspect of that system but subtly plagiarized others!)
    The leading pretrib rapture merchandisers (Scofield, Lindsey, LaHaye etc.) are openly anti-Catholic and believe that the Antichrist during the coming tribulation will be headquartered in Rome (and you can guess where!).
    For more shocks Google “Catholics Did NOT Invent the Rapture,” “The Real Manuel Lacunza,” “Pseudo-Ephraem Taught Pretrib – NOT!,” “John Darby Did NOT Invent the Rapture,” “Margaret Macdonald’s Rapture Chart” (she originated the pretrib rapture!), “Edward Irving is Unnerving,” “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Evangelicals Use Occult Deception,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty.”ReplyCancel

  • AdrienneApril 28, 2015 - 7:00 am

    Angela, thanks for sharing your research. I am familiar with the origin of pretrib rapture theory, but as you pointed out, I am familiar with Darby as the first teacher. Honestly, I haven’t come across but maybe one other person who has ever researched the history of this teaching.ReplyCancel