While the media picked up on only one select phrase from the upcoming "Light of the World" Q & A book with Pope Benedict XVI, there are other exerpts that they ignored. Sandro Magister, in his online magazine, Chiesa, provides an English translation of some of the topics covered by the Holy Father. In light of the fact that we are in the waning days of the Church's liturgical year, the sections on the Last Things and the Second Coming are most relevent.
Let's first look at what the Holy Father says about the Last Things:
The last thingsYesterday's readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King, espeically the Gospel account from St. Luke, were precisely about these Last Things. St. Luke's version of the Passion tells the story of the rejection of the first thief and the humble proclamation of faith from the Good Thief. This story is, I believe, a preview of things to come and it gives us an idea of what the judgment will look like. The judgment is a choice, a choice between living with God for all eternity or facing perpetual damnation. The first thief looked at Jesus with utter disgust and spent his last gasps of precious oxygen jeering at him and reviling him. He resisted the magnetic pull of divine love and mercy emitting from Jesus. The other thief, commonly known as the Good Thief, has a different reaction to Jesus. He freely admits his guilt unapologetically. He tells Jesus that he is a sinner and that he deserves death. Then, he adds, he wants Jesus to remember him when the Lord comes into His kingdom. That's quite a bold statement to make. Jesus responds with divine mercy and love, telling him, "This day, you will be with me in paradise." The first thief chose to reject Jesus; the second one accepted Jesus' love and, quite literally, stole that Sacred Heart.
This is a very serious question. Our preaching, our proclamation is in effect widely oriented, in a unilateral way, to the creation of a better world, while the really better world is almost not mentioned any more. Here we must make an examination of conscience. Of course, one tries to connect with the audience, to talk to them about what is on their horizon. But at the same time, our task is to break through this horizon, to broaden it, and to look at the last things. The last things are like stale bread to the men of today. They seem unreal to them. Instead, they would like concrete answers for today, solutions for everyday tribulations. But these are answers that go only halfway if they do not also permit me to sense and to acknowledge that I extend beyond this material life, that there is judgment, and that there is grace and eternity. In this sense, we must also find new words and ways to permit man to break down the wall of sound of the finite.
Now, the second exerpt from the Holy Father's book keeps along the same theme of the Last Things. This time, Pope Benedict addresses the issue of the Second Coming:
The coming of ChristMy spiritual director uses the term "already, but, not yet" when discussing salvation. We are in that "already, but, not yet" time between the two comings of Christ. But, I think I should like to take his line of thought (and the Holy Father's) a bit further. At every Mass, we anticipate the second coming of Christ. At every Mass, Christ is really present under the humble species of bread and wine. Jesus constantly re-enters our lives in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. While this is not to say that we don't encounter Jesus in our every day lives, we meet him most profoundly, most personally in the Mass, especially when we receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion. The sacred liturgy is also our preparation for the Divine Liturgy of heaven, the liturgy that St. John alludes to in the Book of Revelation, the Wedding feast of the Lamb.
It is important that in every age the Lord is near. That we also, here and now, are under the judgment of the Lord and we allow ourselves to be judged by his tribunal. It was said that there was a twofold coming of Christ, one in Bethlehem and one at the end of time, until St. Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of an "Adventus medius," an intermediary coming, through which he constantly reenters history. I think that he struck the right tone. We cannot establish when the world will end. Christ himself says that no one knows it, not even the Son. But we must remain so to speak always near his coming, and above all be certain that, in suffering, he is near. At the same time, we should know that we are under his judgment for our actions.
These are the words that the media should report. Instead, the secular press seems to be fixated on one issue and trying to spin it out of control. In my opinion, this is yellow journalism at its worst.
Sandro Magister's article may be found on his website:
Picture taken from the Hermeneutic of Continuity Blog