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Question

Dear Father Angelo,

My name is Pietro and I am a young Catholic who came across this wonderful site while “wandering” in search of further information on theological topics (I feel that I owe to my classical studies this need to deepen my knowledge).

First of all, I take the opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate the answers you give to those who write to you and how much they have been useful to me in understanding aspects of our faith that were still obscure to me. For these reasons I remember you in prayer with great affection and gratitude, and I pray to Our Lord that He will always give the strength to you and to men like you to be close, with your authority, to a Christian people increasingly confused by the attacks of a world far from the Truth.

I now come to my question: like others who have written to you, I also  found myself in a bit of difficulty when faced with passages of the Gospel in which Our Lord seems to declare His last coming as imminent to the generation of the Apostles.

Passages such as: “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28).

Or in the eschatological discourse when He states that “this generation will not pass before this has happened”.

I read in your answers and in the pastoral notes that exegetes link these expressions to the ruin of Jerusalem, others to the Transfiguration and still others to the Resurrection.

I do not deny the reasonableness of these interpretations; however I cannot fail to see a certain forcedness in them.

Personally, I have developed another interpretation and I am here to ask you what you think, since I am neither a priest nor a theologian.

I started from the consideration that the Gospel is a living word, it is not an outdated book, and therefore when we go to church and listen to the Readings we do not listen to the reading of something that was said 2000 years ago, but we listen to something that is said now. In other words, we make ourselves present to the teachings of Jesus!

So when He claimed that some of those present would not die before seeing His coming, He was not only addressing those who were historically present at those words, but also all those who would be present at those words, consequently, you and I are also included among those “here present”, just as the people who will come after us will be included, and in the end also the people  who will live in the last times and will witness his coming will be included, even if in a million of years. 

Basically, He himself, in Mark 13, commands his disciples to be vigilant and specifies: “What I say to you I tell everyone”.

The point, for me, is that His word never passes, His present never becomes past! He is the Lord of time and transcends it, He is before Abraham was!

Basically it is the same Miracle, before which our reason can only bow, which we believe happens every time we participate in the Holy Mass, and in it we meet the Lord present and alive in the Eucharist, since in the Mass his whole life is made present in terms that we could define outside-time or ex-temporal.

I would also like to add that, interpreted in this way, these words have enormous power because in them Jesus is also saying to you and me that we may not die before His coming, as St. Paul also recalls in his letters. Instead they seem, with all due respect, rather useless words if one sees in them a “mere” prophecy for the men of that generation. Of course there are passages that concern the past, such as the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem, but I believe that it is necessary to be cautious before binding the words of Our Lord to the historical context only (which must be kept in mind to understand certain expressive modes or modalities): They would no longer concern us, or at least not so closely, they would lose their universality and their ex-temporality by reducing themselves to a historical and dated text.

I conclude by saying that this possible interpretation also seems to be one to which  the note in my CEI Bible is open, where, at “this generation will not pass …”, notes thus: It is about the destruction of Jerusalem, the hope of the final coming as imminent (according to what the early Church hoped) or the continuous expectation of all generations. What do you think of this interpretation?

Waiting for your kind reply, I greet you cordially and I promise to remember you in my prayers.

Pietro


Answer

Dear Pietro, 

1. I am pleased with the various statements of considerable importance that you have made.

First of all this one: “The Gospel is a living word, it is not a dated book”.

It is the Lord who speaks to us: “Let us listen to something that is being said now”.

2. You emphasize: “We do not listen to the reading of something that was said 2000 years ago”.

I would specify: “We don’t just listen to the reading of something that was said 2000 years ago”. Because in reality it was said as being current 2000 years ago and was said to be the most current in every instant of these 2000 years and it will be until the end of time.

3. You write: “The point, for me, is that His word never passes, his present never becomes past! He is the Lord of time and transcends it, He is before Abraham was! ”.

This is also very true: His present never becomes past!

Not because it has not already been realized in those who preceded us, but because it continues to be realized and never ceases to be realized in every moment and in every place. 

4. “Basically it is the same Miracle”.

Yes, Jesus is the same Miracle because He is the Eternal who entered time.

And He continues to be the Eternal who entered time.

5. “In the Mass your whole life is made present in terms that we could define outside-time or ex-temporal”.

Yes, in ex-temporal terms because they transcend time.

Precisely for this reason it is given to everyone.

6. Coming now to the interpretation of the quoted  verse, I think I can say that it is acceptable. Among those who are present to Christ there are also men who will live the last hour of history.

Among them you, me and our visitors.

7. It is an interpretation that can be added to the others presented in my answer.

And so you too are that scribe of whom the Lord speaks when he says: “For this reason every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who extracts new and old things from his treasury” (Mt 13, 52).

I wish you to always progress like this.

I gladly accompany this wish with remembrance in prayer.

I bless you.

Father Angelo