You are going to hear the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away… (Matthew 24:6). Isn’t this the reality today? The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the rising conflicts among powerful nations clearly indicate that this prophecy of Jesus is being fulfilled along with many others such as floods, earthquakes, etc. However, with time, even we who are spiritual tend to get accustomed to the noise close by and the news from far away of all such adverse global events.
Two years have gone by since the COVID-19 pandemic first started. It is still raging on, perhaps in a milder way. We hear the noise of it close by and the news of it from far away. But we are still continuing with all our spiritual and earthly responsibilities as usual. Some of us have even been blessed with a lot of success, elevated to a higher position, recognised in society, etc. But perhaps we could be missing something more important that God is trying to convey to us, especially in the times that we are living in.
In the Old Testament, Israel was faced with an adverse event. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia and some of the Israelites were taken to Babylon. Daniel was among them. The fact that he would never compromise on prayer (Daniel 6) and that he kept himself ritually clean even in a hostile environment such as the king’s palace indicates that he was very spiritual. (Daniel 1:8). To add to it, God had given him the gift of interpreting dreams. He even won the king’s favour as a result of God operating in his life. He was put in charge of the province of Babylon and was made the head of all the royal advisers. (Daniel 2:48).
After the death of King Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar became king and we are told that Daniel won his favour too (Daniel 5). Even the queen mother of king Belshazzar recognised him as truly a man of God (Daniel 5:10-12). By the end of chapter 8, he progressed from interpreting dreams to seeing visions given to him by God. In other words, he was making great progress in his spiritual as well as earthly life.
At one point in time, Babylon fell into the hands of the Medes. It was then ruled by King Darius. In no time, Daniel won the favour of the new king too. (Daniel 6:3). Even his enemies could not trap him because God was with him. (Daniel 6:1-23). Thus, from chapter 1 to chapter 8, we see Daniel as a spiritual person who concerns himself with praying, exercising his spiritual gifts and also carrying out all the duties assigned to him by the king. At the same time, he enjoys the favour of the king, success in all his work and protection from all his enemies. In short, he had absolutely nothing to be concerned about. It is only in Chapter 9 that we see him becoming overly concerned about something.
Daniel 9:2 tells us how it all began… In the first year of his (Dariu’s) reign I was studying the sacred books and thinking about the seventy years that Jerusalem would be in ruins, according to what the LORD had told the prophet Jeremiah. Studying the scriptures and meditating on the prophecy made by the prophet Jeremiah led him to praying earnestly and doing a lot of penance. Kindly note what he prays for: He prays specifically for the forgiveness of the sins of the Israelites and the restoration of the Temple. (Daniel 9:3-17). In other words, studying the scriptures and meditating on the prophecy led Daniel to lead aside all his spiritual and earthly achievements and become overly concerned with what was dear to God’s heart.
The result of Daniel’s earnest prayers was two-fold: In the first place, God wastes no time in revealing to Daniel the deeper meaning of the prophecy of Jeremiah; and the revelations continue even after that. (Daniel 9:22 to Daniel 12:13). Interestingly, all these revelations are about the troubled times that we are now living in. Secondly, God fulfills his promise of restoring the Temple after seventy years of exile. No doubt, He had told the time duration to Jeremiah much in advance. But God who can look into the future could see at that time, Daniel and many others who would be praying earnestly for the restoration of the Temple.
All this shows that God is waiting for people who – like Daniel – will turn to the Scriptures and think deeply about the prophecies made by His servants concerning the troubled times that we are living in. Besides the Word of God, private revelations are also very important and cannot be ignored. As St. Paul writes… Do not despise inspired messages. (1 Thessalonians 5:20). In fact, God has been speaking over the last many years through a number of Catholic Seers in order to warn His people about 1) the ongoing chastisements and 2) those which are yet to come.
The more seriously we meditate on the Scriptures and think deeply about the prophecies, the more our hearts will be stirred to pray earnestly and do penance. Instead of praying for our selfish and earthly needs, we will feel the urge within us to pray for the forgiveness of the sins of God’s people and for the coming of the Day of God when He will restore the world (the thousand years of peace mentioned in Revelation 20). And God does take earnest prayers into consideration when it comes to fulfilling prophecies.
Therefore, being spiritual people, it is good to fulfill our spiritual and earthly responsibilities such as praying, exercising the charisms given to us, doing a lot of evangelisation work, earning our livelihood, etc. All these fall into the category of living a life that is holy and dedicated to God. But at the same time, we must not forget the other and most important part – doing our best to make the Day of God come soon. That is what St. Peter meant when he wrote… Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God, as you wait for the Day of God and do your best to make it come soon—the Day when the heavens will burn up and be destroyed, and the heavenly bodies will be melted by the heat. But we wait for what God has promised: new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will be at home. (2 Peter 3:11-13)