TIME certainly will not end until the finish of the present form of existence; an existence that is transitory, subject to succession and change; because of this, the end of time will coincide with the end of the world.
But “the times" may well not be the same thing as “time" . . .
Jesus, in His eschatological discourse,(32) according to the version of St. Luke (21: 24) said about the coming ruin of the Jewish city: And they shall fall by the edge of the sword; and shall be led away captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the gentiles;(33) until the times of the nations be fulfilled.
Thus the first chosen people, Israel, will remain dispersed and their capital, the Holy City, abandoned by God as in the grand captivity of Babylon. The gentiles who embrace the faith will then replace the unfaithful Jewish nation as the nation of God. Such a situation will last for a long time: the times of the nations. These times will be fulfilled when the time comes for Israel once again through a massive conversion to Christianity. The effects of such a conversion would have enormous significance, according to St. Paul:
Have the Jews fallen forever, or have they just stumbled? Obviously they have not fallen forever. But by their fall, salvation has come to the gentiles . . . For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their reception be, but resurrection from the dead! (Romans 11: 11-15)
History then will take a spectacular turn, unforeseeable and bewildering. Truly there will be new times. Is this being heralded by Garabandal for the near future? Can the end of the times, which is predicted to follow John XXIII’s third successor, be the consummation of the times of the nations, that will pave the way for Israel’s great new epoch in the service of God and mankind?
I would be inclined to say yes,(34) if it were not for a serious difficulty: the prediction that the third successor of John XXIII would be the last pope. It is hard to understand how the Church could exist without a head or a ruler. If there were no head, would not Our Lord have to appear to us, to achieve by His second coming the work which began with His first? That would be the Parousia.(35)
Or would He proceed to the great consummation supposed by the Last Universal Judgment, in which case, the end of the times would be practically the same thing as the end of the world.
Or would He only change the present state of things in such a way as to prepare the final path for the great consummation. Perhaps St. Paul refers to this when he says:
For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. And when all things shall be subdued under Him, then the Son Himself must be subject also to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15: 25-28)
There is also another possibility: in speaking of the three last popes, this could refer to their reigning in Rome like their predecessors. Only in this would they be the last, since perhaps there could later be some extra-Roman pontiffs. Can this possibility be excluded?
The more I think about it, the more I favor the last hypothesis.
The Catholic Church originated in Jerusalem where St. Peter had his seat. Following the falling away of Israel after the Jews put the Messiah to death and violently rejected his works, Saint Peter went to find a place among the nations, the gentile people, and his seat was established in Rome which was then the undeniable head of the gentile world.
The succession of Saint Peter was then perpetuated in the Bishop of Rome who was the Pope of the Church and the Head of the Episcopal College. From that time the same person was both Bishop of Rome and the Head of the Church.
But if Rome would perish or disappear, there would be no more bishops belonging to it. And if Jerusalem would become a converted Israel, a Christian one, a Holy City as had so often been predicted by the biblical prophecies, it would become the city of the great King. Here the word of the Lord would save all peoples and the successor of Saint Peter, the Vicar of Christ, would situate himself. The center of the Church would thus return to its origin.
Rome is called Babylon in passages of the New Testament (I Peter 5: 13) and there are many things in the 17th and 19th chapters of the Apocalypse about its destiny . . .
Concise and explicit is the final paragraph of the famous prophecy of Saint Malachy on the popes: In the last persecution of the Holy Roman Church the throne will be held by Peter the Roman, who will tend his sheep in the midst of Tribulations. When these have passed, the City of the Seven Hills will be destroyed, and the terrible judge will judge his people.
Mysteries! Mysteries! Mysteries!
But we should not ignore that Garabandal, from the days of 1963, has proclaimed that we are entering into decisive times, perhaps the last that will be marked by the arms of the great clock of history.
32. It is called this since it speaks of the last events, referring to the final consummation of man’s history. The theological study that deals with the last things of the world has received the name of Eschatology (from the Greek word ‘eschatos’ meaning last).
33. For the Jews, the gentiles comprise all other peoples and nations that are not descendants of Abraham, the chosen one of God.
The Israelites, sons and heirs of the promise, constitute a nation completely separate; the other nations are the common masses. Because of this, the word gentile, rather than having a religious signification, indicates the condition of being part of the masses.
34. Perhaps the fact of presenting herself at Garabandal as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, apart from its theological and mystical meaning (see the Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the Cross), has also a mysterious reference to the nearness of the eschatological times.
Mount Carmel has been closely associated with the devotion to the Virgin from the remotest times; but it is also closely associated with the history of Israel (in the decisive hours of the Alliance) and with the activities of the great prophet of the old testament, Elias.
By appearing under her ancient title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in these modern times of the world, does the Virgin want to indicate that she will take decisive action so that the mass conversion of the Jews — that has been waiting for almost two millennia now — will be accomplished, fulfilling that way the times of the nations?
Does she want to point out the imminence of the final times when, according to the Apocalypse (ll:3-6) the man of Mount Carmel, Elias, will make his last acts as a preacher and witness of the Lord?
These are times in which I think I find a certain mimetic likeness between the sound of the word Garabandal and the sound of the Hebrew or Arab word for Carmel. It is almost as if there were two Carmels: one from the east, and one from the west, both chosen as locations for salvation by the presence of the Virgin.
35. Parousia is a biblical and theological term to designate the solemn manifestation of Christ at the end of time.