“so that you do not grieve like the rest who have no hope ” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
The grief of those who have no hope is that of those who do not believe in life after death. Belief in Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope.
Trying to figure out when and how Jesus would return was an important topic of conversation among the early Christian communities reflected here in this text from our second reading this Sunday. It also seems to be a concern for many evangelical Christians even today.
St Paul seems to have been of the opinion that the Second Coming would occur before all of his readers would physically die, thus his referring in our second reading , to “we who are alive.” The image of the living, or a select group of the living, being raised up to heaven is often referred to as the “Rapture.” Sacred Scripture gives no basis for a belief in some being taken up to heaven before the return of Christ, and some being “left behind.” The Catholic Church has no teaching using the ideas of a “Rapture” before the return of Christ. What we believe is expressed in the Creed, that Jesus will return and that those who physically died as well as those still living will be raised with some manner of a final judgment.
Although we believe in the Second Coming, we don’t know when Jesus will return. After so many centuries have passed since the resurrection of Jesus, determining when Jesus will return is not a major issue for Catholics as it is for some Christian groups. It is hard to understand how significant this question was for Christians in the first century. But in our day and age, when it is not even a question for most people, we have to hold onto our belief that Christ will return at some point in time to bring the world to judgement. How ready are we for this moment?