On the Coming of the Son of Man

"He is the Central Event That, in the Midst of the Troubles of the World, Remains the Firm and Stable Point"

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VATICAN CITY, Nov. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, Jesus’ discourse about the end times (in technical terms, his “eschatological” discourse) is proclaimed at Mass (cf. Mark 13:24-32). This discourse is also found, with some variations, in Matthew and Luke, and it is probably the most difficult text in the Gospels.

This difficulty derives both from the content and the language: Jesus speaks of a future that is beyond our categories, and because of this Jesus uses images and words taken from the Old Testament, but, importantly, he inserts a new center, namely, himself, the mystery of his person and his death and resurrection. Today’s passage too opens with some cosmic images of an apocalyptic nature: “The sun will be darkened, the moon will no longer give its light, the stars will fall from the sky and the powers in the skies will be shaken” (Mark 13:24-25); but this element is relativized by what follows: “Then the Son of Man will come upon the clouds in the sky with great power and glory” (13:26). The “Son of Man” is Jesus himself, who links the present with the future; the ancient words of the prophets have finally found a center in the person of the Messiah of Nazareth: he is the central event that, in the midst of the troubles of the world, remains the firm and stable point.

Another passage from today’s Gospel confirms. Jesus says: “The sky and the earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (13:31). In fact, we know that in the Bible the word of God is at the origin of creation: all creatures, starting with the cosmic elements – sun, moon, sky – obey God’s Word, they exist insofar as they are “called” by it. This creative power of the divine Word (“Parola”) is concentrated in Jesus Christ, the Word (“Verbo”) made flesh, and also passes through his human words, which are the true “sky” that orients the thought and path of man on earth. For this reason Jesus does not describe the end of the world and when he uses apocalyptic images he does not conduct himself like a “visionary.” On the contrary, he wants to take away the curiosity of his disciples in every age about dates and predictions and wishes instead to give them a key to a deep, essential reading, and above all to indicate the right path to take, today and tomorrow, to enter into eternal life. Everything passes – the Lord tells us – but God’s Word does not change, and before this Word each of us is responsible for his conduct. It is on this basis that we will be judged.

Dear friends, even in our times there is no lack of natural calamities, nor, unfortunately, of war and violence. Today too we need a stable basis for our life and our hope, much more because of the relativism in which we are immersed. May the Virgin help us to accept this center in the Person of Christ and in his Word.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

Yesterday in Pergamino, Argentina María Crescencia Pérez of the Congregation the Figlie di Maria Santissima dell’Orto (Daughters of Mary Most Holy of the Garden) was declared blessed. She lived in the first half of last century and is a model of evangelical sweetness animated by faith. Let us praise the Lord for her witness!

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present for today’s Angelus. This Sunday, as the liturgical year draws to a close, Jesus tells us that although heaven and earth will pass away, his words will remain. Let us pledge ourselves to build our lives more and more on the solid foundation of his holy word, the true source of life and joy.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday. Thank you. Have a good Sunday. Have a good week. Goodbye.

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]