On the Final Judgment
"Not a Question of Honors and Appearances"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Today we celebrate, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. We know that in the Gospels Jesus rejected the title of king when it was understood in a political sense, along the lines of “the rulers of nations” (cf. Matthew 20:24). Instead, during his passion, before Pilate he claimed a different sort of kingship. Pilate asked Jesus plainly, “Are you a king?” Jesus answered, “You have said it; I am a king” (John 18:37). A little before this, however, he had declared, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
The kingship of Christ is, indeed, the revelation and the implementation of the kingship of God the Father, who governs all things with love and with justice. The Father entrusted the Son with the mission of giving men eternal life, loving them to the point of the supreme sacrifice, and at the same time he has given him the power to judge them, from the moment that he was made Son of Man, like us in all things (cf. John 5:21-22, 26-27).
Today’s Gospel insists precisely on this universal kingship of Christ the judge, with the impressive parable of the final judgment, that St. Matthew presents right before his account of the Passion (25:31-46). The images are simple, the language is popular, but the message is extremely important: it is the truth about our ultimate destiny and lays down the criteria by which we will be judged. “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” and so on (Matthew 25:35).
Who does not know this passage? It has become a part of our civilization. It has marked the history of peoples of Christian culture, their hierarchy of values, their institutions, and their many benevolent and social organizations. In effect, the Kingdom of God is not of this world, but it brings to fulfillment all the good that, thanks to God, exists in man and history. If we put love of our neighbor into practice, according to the Gospel message, then we are making room for the lordship of God, and his kingdom will realize itself in our midst. If instead each of us thinks only of his own interests, the world cannot but be destroyed.
Dear friends, the Kingdom of God is not a question of honors and appearances, but, like St. Paul writes, it is “justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). The Lord has our own good at heart, that is, that every man have life, and that especially the “least” of his children be admitted to his feast, which he has prepared for all. Because of this he has no use for the hypocritical ones who say “Lord, Lord,” but have neglected his commandments (cf. Matthew 7:21).
God will accept into his eternal kingdom those who have made the effort every day to put his word into practice. This is why the Virgin Mary, the most humble of his creatures, is the greatest in his eyes and sits as Queen at the right of Christ the King. We desire to entrust ourselves with filial confidence once again to her heavenly intercession, so that we might realize our Christian mission in the world.
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the crowds in several languages. In Italian, he said:]
Tomorrow in the city of Nagasaki in Japan, the beatification of 188 martyrs -- all of them Japanese, killed in the early part of the 17th century -- will take place. I pledge my spiritual nearness on this occasion, which is so significant for the Catholic community, and for the whole country of the Rising Sun. Also, in Cuba next Saturday, Fray José Olallo Valdés, of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, will be beatified. I entrust the Cuban people to his heavenly protection, especially the sick and health workers.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[In English, he said:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus. In today’s Solemnity of Christ the King we pray that the Lord may reign in our hearts. Sustained by his grace in faith and love, we trust that by bearing witness to him on earth we may be found worthy of his promises in heaven. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday! Let us also rejoice in anticipation with our brothers and sisters in Japan, who celebrate tomorrow in Nagasaki the beatification of the Venerable Servants of God Peter Kibe Kasui and his 187 companion martyrs. May their victory in Christ over sin and death fill us all with hope and courage!
© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana