By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter
The phrase “The sky is falling!” is a common idiom (an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or the sky is falling) indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.
Henny Penny, more commonly known in the United States as Chicken Little and sometimes as Chicken Licken, is a folk tale with a moral in the form of a cumulative tale about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. The phrase “The sky is falling!” features prominently in the story.
Do you know someone who is a “Lichen?” We hear a story of a little boy who is not. Emma, the teacher, is reading to her class the story of Chicken Little. Emma gets to the part where Chicken Little tries to warn the farmer.
“So, Chicken Little went over to the farmer and said, ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling.’” Emma then asks her class, “What do you think the farmer then said?”
Little Alan raises his hand and replied, “I think he said, ‘I can’t believe it! A talking chicken!’”
Are the apostles skeptical when Jesus, looking at the beautiful temple with its gold and silver façade, says to its 12 giddy admirers, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask him privately, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end?”
I wonder if they thought Jesus would tell them he was only kidding.
Instead, he cautions, “See that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many. When you hear of wars and reports of wars, do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains.”
Remember when hurricanes hit some parts of our country with machine gun accuracy. One governor told a stubborn man who refused to look up to see if anything was falling from the sky, that he should get out of Dodge and added, “Write your Social Security number on your arm, so we’ll be able to identify your body!”
So, why does only God the Father know when the end of the world will happen? Jesus said, “As to the exact day or hour, no one knows it, neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, but only the Father. Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! You do not know when the appointed time will come” (Mk 13:32-33).
Come on God! Can’t you give us a hint? Others have attempted to answer the question. When the end of the first millennium approached, it also was an “end time.” Some early saints predicted the end of the world. For example, St. Clement thought time would run out about 60 A.D.; Martin of Tours thought 400 A.D. would be the end.
Remember in 1999, we approached the 21st century and waited for the year 2000. Hal Lindsey, author of the famous book The Late Great Planet Earth, predicted the end in 1980 and has had to revise his dates every 10 years or so. Pat Robertson, the television preacher, said the end was coming in October or November of 1982. He, too, has had to make several revisions.
Jesus told us not worry about the end time of the world; all we need to do is live our faith from day to day, from moment to moment. We are blessed with our faith to know the answers to the most important questions of our lives. God loves us; Jesus died for us. He teaches us the truth about life and because he is the “way, the truth and the life.”
So, when we hear dire predictions of the end of the world, or “The sky is falling!”, rather than ask, “Are you a talking chicken?”, we could simply say, “Jesus said, These are the beginnings of the labor pains.” Stay tuned for the live birth, the Resurrection.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese, and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.