In the Christian perspective, the distinction is not between “those who are already dead and who are not, but between those who are in Christ and who are not.”
Pope Francis said these words during his weekly general audience this morning in a foggy St. Peter’s Square, adding, “This is the decisive factor, really decisive for our salvation and for our happiness.”
Before reflecting on fundamental questions people ask about the end of this world and the new one to come, the Argentine Pontiff observed the weather was a “bit ugly” and joked that those present were “brave” to be there.
Journey in history
“In presenting the Church to the people of our time,” he said, the Second Vatican Council had in mind a fundamental truth we must never forget.
The Church is not a “static, a still reality,” nor an “end in itself,” but rather a “continuous journey in history.”
This “journey” that is the Church, the Pope said, works toward the “ultimate” and “wonderful goal” of the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the Church on earth “is the seed and beginning.”
When we realize this, he said, “Our imagination stops” and is “barely able to perceive the splendor of the mystery which surpasses our senses.”
From this, he explained, some questions, which “resonate in the human heart,” spontaneously arise: “When will this final step happen? How will the new dimension of the Church come? What then is humanity?”
Faced with these, the Council’s Constitution Gaudium et Spes says: “‘We do not know the time that will end the earth and humanity, and we do not know how the universe will be transformed” but its appearance, “distorted by sin,” will certainly no longer be.
“God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells,” he said, “in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.”
“More than a place, he continued, “it is a ‘state’ in which our deepest expectations will be fulfilled so abundantly and our being as creatures and as children of God, come to full maturity.”
This will allow us to have joy, peace and love of God in a complete way, he said, without any limit.
“We will be face to face with Him!” the 77-year-old Pontiff exclaimed.
Given this, he said, it is nice to hear that there is a continuity and a communion between the Church in heaven and that still journeying on earth.
“Those who already live in the sight of God can indeed support us and intercede for us, pray for us. On the other hand, we are always invited to offer good deeds, prayer and the Eucharist itself to alleviate the suffering of souls who are still waiting for the bliss without end.”
What matters, he said, is not whether people are alive or dead, but whether they are or are not in Christ.
“Even Creation itself,” he said citing St. Paul, “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
The whole universe, he continued, will, “once and for all,” be renewed and released from all traces of evil and death itself.
“What lies ahead, as the fulfillment of a transformation that is actually already in place from the death and resurrection of Christ, is therefore a new creation.”
“It is not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us,” he stressed, but rather a bringing of everything to its fullness of being, truth, and beauty.
Pope Francis said this is the plan that God “always want to accomplish” and “is building.”
The Pope concluded, saying when “we think about these wonderful realities that await us, we realize belonging to the Church is truly a wonderful gift!”