It’s a different story with the end times and the devil. The pope makes no bones about accepting the reality of both.
Regarding the end times — the era preceding the Second Coming of Christ, the last judgment and the end of the world — several themes stand out in his thinking. One is that this will be a time when the Church and Christians are persecuted.
In his Nov. 28 homily, he spoke of the present as a period of “general apostasy.” Mighty forces anxious to keep God from being worshipped seek to convince Christians to take a “reasonable and peaceful road” by obeying “worldly powers” bent on reducing religion to “a private matter,” he said.
Describing the ensuing persecution of the Church as “a calamity,” the pope said: “It will appear to be the triumph of the prince of this world, the defeat of God. It will seem as though he has taken over the world [and become] master of the world.” As for the persecuted Christians, he added, they are “a prophetic sign of what will happen to everyone.”
Lest there be any doubt, Pope Francis emphasizes that the persecution of religion he envisages will involve the shedding of blood. In his Nov. 18 homily, he cited the Old Testament Book of Maccabees, which tells of the martyrdom of faithful Jews and cautioned today’s believers against subscribing to an “adolescent progressivism” that encourages the abandonment of faith.
“Do you think there are no human sacrifices today?” he asked rhetorically. “There are many, many of them. And there are laws that protect them.”
This apparently means laws that protect the sacrifices, not those who are sacrificed. Legalized abortion comes to mind.
It was in this context that Francis — in a reference that caught the attention of people who understood it — spoke of “Lord of the World,” calling it “almost ... a prophecy.”
Published a century ago, “Lord of the World” is a novel by Robert Hugh Benson, son of an archbishop of Canterbury who converted to Catholicism, became a priest and wrote works of fiction and popular devotion.
The novel is probably Benson’s best known book. It’s a futuristic end-times story depicting a radically secularized society whose authoritarian regime controls its mostly willing subjects by providing them with a feel-good environment where religion and traditional morality are systematically excluded.
The “Lord” of this world of the not-so-distant future is a mysterious figure who, as the story unfolds, grows more and more recognizable as the Antichrist whom the Bible foretells as precursor of the end times. The tale concludes on the plains outside Nazareth where the Antichrist and his followers are preparing to exterminate the last believers led by the last pope.
Francis evidently thinks at least some end-times events are already taking place. But that’s not new. “With God’s coming into history,” he said, “we are already in the last times” — and could be for a long while to come.
However that may be, on May 4 he said Christianity is more persecuted today than at the start. “So many Christian communities are persecuted around the globe,” he said. “More so now than in the early times ... Why? Because the spirit of the world hates.” (Read more.)
(Via Abbey-Roads.) Share