Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pope Francis: Advent calls us to enlarge our horizons

Pope Francis greets the faithful at the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday.  - REUTERS

Pope Francis greets the faithful at the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday. - REUTERS

27/11/2016 12:47
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis marked the beginning of the new liturgical year at the Angelus for the First Sunday of Advent.
On this Sunday, he said, the Gospel introduces us to one of the most “evocative” themes of the Advent season: the visit of the Lord to humanity. Pope Francis pointed out three visits of the Lord: the first, in the past, with the Incarnation, and Birth of Jesus at Christmas; the second, in the present, as Jesus visits us continually, every day; and the final visit, in the future, when Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”
Advent encourages us to reflect on the contrast between our daily routine and the unexpected coming of the Lord. The Gospel, the Pope said, is not trying to frighten us, but “to open our horizons” to further dimensions, giving meaning even to everyday occurrences.
This perspective, he continued, is also an invitation to “sobriety, to not be dominated by the things of this world” but rather to keep them in their proper place. If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to be overpowered by a concern for material things, we will not be able to perceive what is much more important: our final encounter with the Lord. And so, the Pope said, Advent is “an invitation to vigilance, because, not knowing when He will come, we must always be ready to depart.”
During Advent, Pope Francis concluded, “we are called to enlarge the horizons of our hearts, to be surprised by the life that is presented each day with its newness. In order to do this we need to learn to not depend on our own securities, our own established plans, because the Lord comes in the hour which we don’t imagine.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 
Taken from:

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    Pope: Full text of homily for Solemnity of Christ the King

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    20/11/2016 10:30
    Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
    Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

    The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is the crown of the liturgical year and this Holy Year of Mercy. The Gospel in fact presents the kingship of Jesus as the culmination of his saving work, and it does so in a surprising way. “The Christ of God, the Chosen One, the King” (Lk 23:35,37) appears without power or glory: he is on the cross, where he seems more to be conquered than conqueror. His kingship is paradoxical: his throne is the cross; his crown is made of thorns; he has no sceptre, but a reed is put into his hand; he does not have luxurious clothing, but is stripped of his tunic; he wears no shiny rings on his fingers, but his hands are pierced with nails; he has no treasure, but is sold for thirty pieces of silver.
    Jesus’ reign is truly not of this world (cf. Jn 18:36); but for this reason, Saint Paul tells us in the Second Reading, we find redemption and forgiveness (cf. Col 1:13-14). For the grandeur of his kingdom is not power as defined by this world, but the love of God, a love capable of encountering and healing all things. Christ lowered himself to us out of this love, he lived our human misery, he suffered the lowest point of our human condition: injustice, betrayal, abandonment; he experienced death, the tomb, hell. And so our King went to the ends of the universe in order to embrace and save every living being. He did not condemn us, nor did he conquer us, and he never disregarded our freedom, but he paved the way with a humble love that forgives all things, hopes all things, sustains all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:7). This love alone overcame and continues to overcome our worst enemies: sin, death, fear.
    Dear brothers and sisters, today we proclaim this singular victory, by which Jesus became the King of every age, the Lord of history: with the sole power of love, which is the nature of God, his very life, and which has no end (cf. 1 Cor 13:8). We joyfully share the splendour of having Jesus as our King: his rule of love transforms sin into grace, death into resurrection, fear into trust.
    It would mean very little, however, if we believed Jesus was King of the universe, but did not make him Lord of our lives: all this is empty if we do not personally accept Jesus and if we do not also accept his way of being King. The people presented to us in today’s Gospel, however, help us. In addition to Jesus, three figures appear: the people who are looking on, those near the cross, and the criminal crucified next to Jesus.
    First, the people: the Gospel says that “the people stood by, watching” (Lk 23:35): no one says a word, no one draws any closer. The people keep their distance, just to see what is happening. They are the same people who were pressing in on Jesus when they needed something, and who now keep their distance. Given the circumstances of our lives and our unfulfilled expectations, we too can be tempted to keep our distance from Jesus’ kingship, to not accept completely the scandal of his humble love, which unsettles and disturbs us. We prefer to remain at the window, to stand apart, rather than draw near and be with him. A people who are holy, however, who have Jesus as their King, are called to follow his way of tangible love; they are called to ask themselves, each one each day: “What does love ask of me, where is it urging me to go? What answer am I giving Jesus with my life?”
    There is a second group, which includes various individuals: the leaders of the people, the soldiers and a criminal. They all mock Jesus. They provoke him in the same way: “Save yourself!” (Lk 23:35,37,39). This temptation is worse than that of the people. They tempt Jesus, just as the devil did at the beginning of the Gospel (cf. Lk 4:1-13), to give up reigning as God wills, and instead to reign according to the world’s ways: to come down from the cross and destroy his enemies! If he is God, let him show his power and superiority! This temptation is a direct attack on love: “save yourself” (vv. 37,39); not others, but yourself. Claim triumph for yourself with your power, with your glory, with your victory. It is the most terrible temptation, the first and the last of the Gospel. When confronted with this attack on his very way of being, Jesus does not speak, he does not react. He does not defend himself, he does not try to convince them, he does not mount a defence of his kingship. He continues rather to love; he forgives, he lives this moment of trial according to the Father’s will, certain that love will bear fruit.
    In order to receive the kingship of Jesus, we are called to struggle against this temptation, called to fix our gaze on the Crucified One, to become ever more faithful to him. How many times, even among ourselves, do we seek out the comforts and certainties offered by the world. How many times are we tempted to come down from the Cross. The lure of power and success seem an easy, quick way to spread the Gospel; we soon forget how the Kingdom of God works. This Year of Mercy invites us to rediscover the core, to return to what is essential. This time of mercy calls us to look to the true face of our King, the one that shines out at Easter, and to rediscover the youthful, beautiful face of the Church, the face that is radiant when it is welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means but rich in love, on mission. Mercy, which takes us to the heart of the Gospel, urges us to give up habits and practices which may be obstacles to serving the Kingdom of God; mercy urges us to orient ourselves only in the perennial and humble kingship of Jesus, not in submission to the precarious regalities and changing powers of every age.
    In the Gospel another person appears, closer to Jesus, the thief who begs him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). This person, simply looking at Jesus, believed in his kingdom. He was not closed in on himself, but rather – with his errors, his sins and his troubles – he turned to Jesus. He asked to be remembered, and he experienced God’s mercy: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). As soon as we give God the chance, he remembers us. He is ready to completely and forever cancel our sin, because his memory – unlike our own – does not record evil that has been done or keep score of injustices experienced. God has no memory of sin, but only of us, of each of us, we who are his beloved children. And he believes that it is always possible to start anew, to raise ourselves up.
    Let us also ask for the gift of this open and living memory. Let us ask for the grace of never closing the doors of reconciliation and pardon, but rather of knowing how to go beyond evil and differences, opening every possible pathway of hope. As God believes in us, infinitely beyond any merits we have, so too we are called to instil hope and provide opportunities to others. Because even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the heart of Christ always remains open wide for us. From the lacerated side of the Risen One until the very end of time flow mercy, consolation and hope.
    So many pilgrims have crossed the threshold of the Holy Doors, and far away from the clamour of the daily news they have tasted the great goodness of the Lord. We give thanks for this, as we recall how we have received mercy in order to be merciful, in order that we too may become instruments of mercy. Let us go forward on this road together. May our Blessed Lady accompany us, she who was also close to the Cross, she who gave birth to us there as the tender Mother of the Church, who desires to gather all under her mantle. Beneath the Cross, she saw the good thief receive pardon, and she took Jesus’ disciple as her son. She is Mother of Mercy, to whom we entrust ourselves: every situation we are in, every prayer we make, when lifted up to his merciful eyes, will find an answer.

    Taken from:

    Monday, November 14, 2016

    Beyond the “Second Coming”

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     Damien F. Mackey
    Were Jesus Christ and his Apostles deluded about the Second Coming?
    Did they pass on to us the wrong time-table?
    When we compare what Jesus Christ, St. John, the author of Revelation, and Paul the Apostle had to say about the “coming” of the Lord with what modern-day Christians have to say about it, we encounter a radical difference in time concept.  
    In the first case, the pre-modern one, the emphasis is upon the shortness of time.
    Jesus stated emphatically (Matthew 16:28; cf. Luke 9:27): Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom’.
    According to John (Revelation 1:1a, 3): “This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon [Gk. tachos] take place .... Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near”.
    Paul wrote similarly in various places. Here I take just 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit, and soul, and body, all together be preserved blameless at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
    Typical of the modern view is the ‘slingshot’ effect, sling-firing these prophecies right away from the time of Christ and squarely into our modern era. For example, Fr. William Saunders has written (in “The Second Coming of the Lord and the Last Judgment”):
    As Catholics, we are mindful and profess in our Creed that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. The Second Vatican Council's "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" states, "Already the final age of the world is with us and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect" (No. 48). To try to grasp the when, what and how of this Second Coming and last judgment, we really need to glean the various passages in Sacred Scripture to see how our Church has interpreted them. They are united in one drama.
    Our Lord in the Gospel spoke of His second coming. He indicated that various signs would mark the event. Mankind would suffer from famine, pestilence and natural disasters. False prophets who claim to be the Messiah will deceive and mislead people. Nations will wage war against each other. The Church will endure persecution. Worse yet, the faith of many will grow cold and they will abandon the faith, even betraying and hating one another. (Confer Mt. 24:4-14; Lk 17:22-37) St. Paul describes a "mass apostasy" before the Second Coming, which will be led by the "son of perdition," the "Man of Lawlessness," the "adversary who exalts himself above every so-called god proposed for worship." This "lawless one" is part of the work of Satan, and with power, signs, wonders and seductions will bring to ruin those who have turned from the truth. However, "the Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and annihilate him by manifesting His own presence." (Cf. 2 Thes 2:3-12) The Catechism affirms, "God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the last judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world" (No. 667). Our Lord will come suddenly. "The Son of Man in His day will be like the lightening that flashes from one end of the sky to the other" (Lk 17:24). St. Peter predicts, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief and on that day the heavens will vanish with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire and the earth and all its deeds will be made manifest" (2 Pt 3:10).
    Death will be no more. The dead shall rise and those souls who have died will be united again to their bodies. All will have a glorious, transformed, spiritualized body as St. Paul said, "He will give a new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of His glorified body..." (Phil 3:21).
    At this time, the final, or general judgment will occur. Jesus said, "Those who have done right shall rise to life; the evildoers shall rise to be damned" (Jn 5:29). Our Lord described this judgment as follows: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, escorted by all the angels of heaven, He will sit upon His royal throne and all the nations will be assembled before Him. Then He will separate them into two groups, as a shepherd separated sheep from goats" (Mt 25:31-32).
    Here each person will have to account for his conduct and the deepest secrets of his soul will come to light. How well each person has responded to the prompting of God's grace will be made clear. Our attitude and actions toward our neighbor will reflect how well we have loved our Lord. "As often as you did it for one of My least brothers, you did it for Me" (Mt 25:41).
    Our Lord will judge us accordingly. For those who have died and already have faced the particular judgment, their judgment will stand. Those living at the time of the Second Coming will receive judgment. Those who have rejected the Lord in this life, who have sinned mortally, who have no remorse for sin and do not seek forgiveness, will have condemned themselves to hell for all eternity. "By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love” (Catechism, No. 678). The souls of the righteous will enter heavenly glory and enjoy the beatific vision and those who need purification will undergo it.
    We do not know when the Second Coming will occur. 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).
    [End of quote]
    This appears to me to be a confusing of the “Second Coming”, or at least of the “coming” predicted by Jesus Christ in Matthew 16:28: ‘Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom’, with the “Final Coming”.
    (For Catholic readers, in particular, this latter was spoken of by Jesus, the Divine Mercy, to Sister Faustina: “You will prepare the world for My final coming”. (Diary 429).
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    As the Americans say, Let’s do the math.
    First: “In the Gospel the Lord shows us that His first coming was in humility, as a Servant, to free the world from sin”.
    Second: His soon-to-take-place “coming” as gleaned from the quotes above, follows that one. And it is this particular “coming” that I would designate the “Second Coming”.
    Last: There is yet to be a Final Coming, as indicated by the Catechism: “God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the last judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world” (No. 667). The Last Judgment.
    “Must Soon Take Place”
    Revelation is a book of urgency. The events it describes were to happen soon. When the Bible says “soon”, it means soon, as in the case of the birth of Isaiah’s Immanuel - not in the Third Millennium! We learn that lesson when we start reading Revelation at its beginning. Plato, in The Republic, had stated an important maxim: “The beginning is the most important part of the book”, and this principle holds a special significance for the would-be interpreter of Revelation.
    “Unfortunately”, as Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. has rightly noted (TEMPORAL EXPECTATION IN REVELATION): “too many prophecy enthusiasts leap over the beginning of this book, never securing a proper footing for the treacherous path ahead”.
    The key to Revelation is found in St. John’s beginning, as quoted above.
    But, in case we missed it, John repeats this soon-ness at the very end (22:6):
    The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirit of the prophets, sent His angel; to show His servants the things that must soon take place’ .... Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near’.
    Just as it would have been senseless for Isaiah’s “sign” for king Ahaz to have been something that would not occur until 700 years later, so would John the Evangelist, according to Gentry: “... be taunting [the churches] mercilessly if he were discussing events two thousand or more years distant. God answers the anxious cry “How long?” by urging their patience only a “little while longer” (6:10-11). Revelation promises there will no longer be “delay” (10:6).
    The angel’s command to St. John not to seal up the scroll is also tellingly in favour of this “soon” interpretation. The prophet Daniel, by contrast, had been commanded by the angel to keep his “words secret and the book [scroll] sealed until the time of the End”, because the things Daniel was shown were not to happen for a long time in the future - in fact several hundred years later, in the time of the Apostles’ generation. For Our Lord himself had, during his important Olivet Discourse when facing the Temple of Jerusalem, referred to the “abomination that makes desolate of which the prophet Daniel spoke” (Matthew 24:15; cf. Mark 14:13).
    We know from Josephus’s history that the Roman armies of Cestius Gallus, that came up to (and surrounded) Jerusalem in 66 AD, and had all but conquered the city, had suddenly, most strangely, retreated. Even Josephus recognised the hand of Providence in this most unexpected turnabout. Many Jews, he said, fled the city at the time - no doubt e.g. those obedient to Jesus Christ’s Olivet warning. And Josephus is correct in seeing this intermission as only intensifying the pressure ultimately, so that with the return of the Roman armies the final destruction of Jerusalem, when it came (in 70 AD), would be total. Thus would be fulfilled Our Lord’s prophecy that ‘Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled’ (Luke 21:24).
    St. John recalls this in Revelation 11:2: “But exclude the outer court [of the Temple]; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months”.
    As Kenneth Gentry has observed: “... the trampling of the temple in AD 70 (Dan. 9:26-27) after its “abomination” (9:27; cf. Matt. 24:15-16; Luke 21:20-21) ends the Gentiles’ ability to stamp out the worship of God. In Daniel 9:24-27, Matthew 23:38-24:2, and Revelation 11:1-2, the “holy city” and its Temple end in destruction”.
    But how do the “times of the Gentiles” relate to the forty-two months of Revelation 11:12)? Well, the period would range from the spring of 67 AD - when Emperor Nero sent his general, Vespasian, to put down the revolt of the Jews - to August 70 - when the Romans breached the inner wall of Jerusalem, transforming the Temple and city into a raging inferno: a period of forty-two months.
    The five months of Revelation 9:5 pertain specifically to the period when the Jewish defenders held out desperately (one might say, fanatically), from April 70 - when Titus began the siege of Jerusalem - until the crescendo at the end of August. According to Gentry (61): “This five months of the Jewish war happens to be its most gruesome and evil period” (cf. Wars, 5.1.1, 4-5; 10:5; 12:4; 13:6).
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