During his Angelus message last Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged thousands of pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square to have a hard look at death, life, meeting God and Judgment Day.
The Pope took the opportunity to address the recent attacks in Paris, expressing his “deep sorrow for the terrorist attacks that bloodied France late on Friday, causing many casualties.” In addition to offering condolences to victims and the victims’ families, the Pope denounced the terrorist attacks as an “unspeakable affront to human dignity.”
“Such barbarity leaves us shocked and we wonder how the human heart can conceive and carry out such horrible events, which have shaken not only France but the whole world,” he said.
Francis condemned the Islamic ideology which fueled the terrorist attacks, claiming using God’s name to justify the massacre was equivalent to blasphemy.
Satan and the reality of evil
The Pope has unabashedly spoken about Satan and evil in the world in previous messages. He has testified to the reality of Satan more frequently than previous Popes. Francis, along with other charismatic Catholics, sees the hand of Satan in various social vices, from pornography to alcoholism.
For example, Francis told delegations of Mexicans that the drug wars in the country were the work of the Devil and attributed conflicts in the Middle East to Satan. He even performed an exorcism on a young man in St. Peter’s Square a couple of years ago.
The Devil was not brought up in the Pope’s recent remarks but warnings about the End Times did creep into his message. Based upon that Sunday’s scripture, the Pope noted Jesus cautioned that the End Times would be ridden with “apocalyptic elements, like war, famine, and cosmic catastrophes.”
“In those days,” Francis continued, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
Some Christians take Pope Francis’s readings of the text with a grain of salt. Many Christians believe that Jesus was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D., whenever he prophesied about the End Times — not about the end of the space-time continuum or the world as we know it.
Pope urges Christians to live in here and now rather than the end of days
Debate about the impending apocalypse should not be the focal point of Christian concern, urged Francis. “Our final goal is the meeting with the resurrected Lord.” The most important thing is not knowing when the end will come, but to be ready whenever it does come, he said.
“We are called to live the present,” Francis said, “but always ready to meet God whenever he may call.”
During the end of the world, Francis said, “Jesus’ triumph will be the triumph of the cross, the demonstration that the sacrifice of oneself out of love for one’s neighbor, in imitation of Christ, is the only victorious power and the only stable point in the midst of the upheavals and tragedies of the world.”
The Pope also cautioned against unhealthy speculations about when the End Times will occur. Psychics and horoscopes distract us from what is important in the here and now, according to the Pope. After all, according to a widely referenced Bible verse, Mark 13:32, not even the son of Man knows when the End Times will happen. That is a piece of knowledge reserved for God the Father alone.
What the Bible does urge us, according to Francis, is to be ready for the End Times at any given moment; hence, the reason why he called upon pilgrims to reflect upon their life and if they are ready to meet God.
“In our days,” he ended, “there is no lack of natural and moral disasters, as well as adversities of every kind.”
“The Lord tells us that everything passes and only He and his Word remain as a light to guide and strengthen our steps,” he said.