Pope Francis on the Second Coming of Jesus:
“may we never be afraid to look to the final judgment“
Here is the text Pope Francis read at his general audience of 24 April 2013:
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the Creed we profess that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Human history begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and ends with the final judgment of Christ. Often these two poles of history are forgotten, and, above all, faith in the return of Christ and the last judgment sometimes is not so clear and steadfast in the hearts of Christians. Jesus, during his public life, often focused on the reality of his last coming. Today I would like to reflect on three Evangelical texts that help us enter this mystery: that of the ten virgins, the talents and the final judgment. All three are part of the Jesus’ discourse on the end of times, in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
First of all remember that, with the Ascension, the son of God brought to the Father our humanity that he took on and he wants to draw all men to himself, to call the whole world to be welcomed into the open arms of God, so that, at the end of history, all of reality will be handed over to the Father. There is, though, this “intermediate time” between the first coming of Christ and the last, which is precisely the time that we are living. The parable of the ten virgins is placed within this context (cf. Mt 25:1-13). It involves ten girls who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, but he delays and they fall asleep. At the sudden announcement that the bridegroom is coming, all prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who were wise, have oil to trim their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with unlit lamps because they have no oil; and while they go out to find some, the groom arrives and the foolish virgins find the door closed that leads to the bridal feast. They knocking persistently, but it is too late, the groom replies: I do not know you. The groom is the Lord, and the waiting time of arrival is the time He gives us, all of us with mercy and patience, before his final coming, it is a time to be vigilant; a time in which we need to keep lit the lamps of the faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep the heart open to the good, to beauty and to the truth; a time to live according to God, because we know neither the day nor the hour of Christ’s return. What is asked of us is to be prepared for this encounter – prepared for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus – which means being able to see the signs of his presence, to keep alive our faith through prayer, with the sacraments, to be vigilant in order not to sleep, not to forget God. The Christian life asleep is a sad life, it isn’t a happy life. The Christian must be happy, have the joy of Jesus. Let’s not fall asleep!
The second parable, that of the talents, makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts received from God and his return, when he will ask how we used them (cf. Mt 25:14-30). We know the parable: before departure, the master gives each servant some talents, to use well during his absence. To the first he gives five, to the second, two, and to the third, one. During the period of his absence, the first two servants multiply their talents – ancient coins -, while the third prefers to bury his and deliver it intact to the master. Upon his return, the master judges their work: he commends the first two, while the third is kicked out into the darkness, because he kept his talent hidden out of fear, closing in on himself. A Christian who closes in on himself, who hides everything that the Lord has given him as a Christian that is…he isn’t a Christian! He is a Christian that does not thank God for all that he has given him! This tells us that the time of waiting for the Lord’s return is the time of action, – we are in the time of action – the time in which to put to use the gifts of God not for ourselves, but for Him, for the Church, for others, the time during which always to try to increase the good in the world. And especially now, in this time of crisis, it is important not to close in upon oneself, burying one’s talent, one’s own spiritual, intellectual, material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open oneself, to be in solidarity, to be attentive to the other. In the square, I saw today there are many young people. Is it so? Are there very many young people? Where are they? To you, who are at the beginning of the journey of life, I ask: have you thought about the talents that God has given you? Have you thought about how you can put them at the service of others? Don’t bury your talents! Bet on big ideals, those ideals that enlarge the heart, those ideals that will make your talents fruitful. Life is not given to us so that we can keep it jealously for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may donate it. Dear young people, have a great soul! Don’t be afraid to dream great things!
Finally, a word on the passage of the final judgement, that describes the second coming of the Lord, when He will judge all humans, living and dead (cf. Mt 25:31-46). The image used by the Evangelist is that of the Shepherd separating sheep from goats. On the right are those who acted according to the will of God, helping their neighbor who was hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, thus following the Lord himself; while on the left are those who haven’t come to the aid of their neighbour. This tells us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest. Of course, we must always keep in mind that we are justified, we are saved by grace, by an act of God’s gratuitous love which always precedes us; we alone can do nothing. Faith is first of all a gift that we have received. But to bear fruit, God’s grace always requires our openness, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of God who saves. We are asked to trust him, to match the gift of his love with a good life, with actions animated by faith and love.
Dear brothers and sisters, may we never be afraid to look to the final judgment; may it push us rather to live better lives. God gives us with mercy and patience this time so that we may learn every day to recognize him in the poor and in the little ones, may we strive for good and we are vigilant in prayer and love. May the Lord, at the end of our existence and history, may recognize us as good and faithful servants. Thank you!