The other day I finished the Holy Father's doctoral habilitation The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure (in translation), and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It's a 'page turner.' If you've ever wondered how someone like Bonaventure could preserve the eschatological edge of Franciscanism by correcting the excesses of Joachim of Fiore and his early receptors, and by making a subtle Christological shift of Christ from eschatological end to center of creation, then this is the book for you.
Having an argument about Christ as end and/or center might not seem to matter, but I think it does. As Christians, we need to recover our eschatology. We have lost, to some degree, our sense that the world as a whole and we as individuals are on a linear pilgrimage of which this life is only a part. The loss of this sense has hampered us in our senses of both life and death.
In the area where I work, aimlessness is one of the larger pastoral and human problems I see. It seems like a lot of young men die here; guys in their 30s or 40s who never really got going in life and who often fall into alcohol and drug abuse. I feel for them because I can see that it's hard here. There isn't much to do. Unless you're a schoolteacher, cop, join the fire department or work for the casino, or unless you have the wherewithal to get a job in the City and commute, there isn't much left. I sometimes wonder if preaching with an eschatological edge would help. I don't mean that I would get up and preach the fear of hell, but explain the good news that our human lives have some urgency to them; that we are live lives that become less revisable each day and through which we decide who we want to be in eternity. Not that this is a matter of fear. It is the stuff of opportunity, and when we put ourselves to it we find peace and joy because we are aligning ourselves with the fundamental movements of the entire creation. Purposefulness of life is harmony with the pilgrim creation.
Our lack of eschatological consciousness also reveals itself in how we handle death. It's why funerals have become 'celebrations of life' rather than offerings of prayer and sacrifice for someone at a turning point in their ongoing journey. It's why Mass intentions have become opportunities to memorialize the dead rather than to pray for them. Many priests wouldn't dream of using anything but white as the liturgical color for funerals. I have nothing against white, which is the right and dignity of all the baptized, but doesn't making the option for white in funerals into an unassailable norm betray a little bit of presumption?