In the presence of thousands at St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI continued his weekly teachings on St. Paul, speaking about the apostle's teaching on the Lord's second coming. The Holy Father stressed that without Christ's presence, there will never be a truly just and renewed world.
"Every Christian discourse on the last things, called eschatology, always begins with the resurrection,” Pope Benedict began as he turned to Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians.
“Probably in the year 52 St. Paul wrote the first of his letters, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he speaks of the return of Jesus. The Apostle writes, ‘For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord’.”
The essential message, Pope Benedict summarized, is to "be with the Lord."
Benedict XVI then pointed out how in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle "changes perspective and speaks of the negative events that will precede the end. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived, he says, as if the Day of the Lord were truly imminent by some chronological calculation. ... The continuation of the Pauline text makes it clear that the coming of the Lord will be preceded by apostasy and by the appearance of a person identified only as 'the lawless one', the 'one destined for destruction', whom tradition came to identify as the Antichrist."
“The intention of this Letter of St. Paul is, above all, practical: the Lord's second coming does not dispense one from one's obligation in this world, but on the contrary, creates a responsibility before the Divine Judge regarding our actions in this world,” the Pope taught.
Turning to Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, the Holy Father observed how even though the apostle was imprisoned and awaiting a possible condemnation to death, he was able to indicate his “complete being with Christ." Living for others demonstrates Paul's "perfect availability to the will of God." His being with Christ creates a great interior freedom: "freedom in the face of death, but also freedom in the face of all life's tasks and sufferings."
Pope Benedict then went on to consider what “fundamental convictions” Christians should have when faced with death and the end of the world.
“Firstly,” Benedict said, “the conviction that Jesus is risen, is with the Father and is always with us. … Secondly, the conviction that Christ is with me. … Thirdly, the conviction that the Judge has left us responsibility for the world and for our brothers and sisters in Christ and the conviction of his mercy. …We know that God is the true Judge, we are sure He is good, we know His face, the face of the risen Christ. ... For this reason we can be sure of His goodness and live our lives courageously."
At the end of his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul "repeats a prayer of the early Christian communities of Palestine, putting it into the mouths of the Corinthians themselves: 'Marana tha! Our Lord, come!' ... which is also how the Book of the Apocalypse ends. ... Can we pray like this today? In our lives, in our world, it is difficult to pray sincerely for this world to perish, for the coming of the New Jerusalem, the Final Judgment, Christ the Judge. ... Nonetheless, like the first Christian community we can say: Come Jesus!”
“Of course we do not want the end of the world to come now,” the Pope explained. “On the other hand, we do want the world of injustice to end, we do want the world to change, the civilization of love to begin, a world of justice and peace to come, a world without violence and hunger. ... But without the presence of Christ a truly just and renewed world will never come."
In closing, the Holy Father turned to modern day circumstances and beseeched Jesus to come. "Let us also say, with great urgency and in the circumstances of our day: O Lord, come! ... Come in the refugee camps, in Darfur, in Nord-Kivu. Come where illegal drugs reign. Come also among those rich people who have forgotten you, who live only for themselves. We pray that Christ may be truly present today in our world and that he renew it."