Pope Benedict focuses chapter 2 of his book on the great "Eschatological Discourse" of Jesus found in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). In reference to the account in Matthew, Pope Benedict acknowledges that it may be the "most difficult text in the whole of the Gospels (26-27)." Benedict divides this chapter into three areas, The End of the Temple, Times of the Gentiles, and Prophecy and Apocalyptic in the Eschatological Discourse.
End of the Temple
Here we read the very stark words by Jesus that God is withdrawing. The events of 70AD are on the horizon. As Pope Benedict says, "God himself is announcing that he is to depart from the Temple, to leave it "empty" (26). While reading through this section all I could think of was the account of the Glory of the Lord leaving the Temple and Jerusalem before the fall of the First Temple, found in the early part of Ezekiel.
"A historical change of incalculable significance was in the air." -p. 26
"Jesus' words here are intended as continuations of tradition rather than literal descriptions of things to come." -p. 27
I love the quote from St. Gregory Nazianzen, on page 34, which proposes that our patient God only imposes on man things that he is ready for. (He is speaking in particular about the role of the Temple sacrifices and worship in general.)
"That he foretold the demise of the Temple--its theological demise, that is, from the standpoint of salvation history--is beyond doubt." -p. 34-35
"When Paul applies the word hilasterion to Jesus, designating him as the seal of the Ark of the Covenant and thus as the locus of the presence of the living God, the entire Old Testament theology of worship (and with it all the theologies of worship in the history of religions) is "preserved and unsurpassed" and raised to a completely new level. Jesus himself is the presence of the living God. God and man, God and the world, touch one another in him." -p. 39-40
The Time of the Gentiles
"From the content, it is clear that all three Synoptic Gospels recognize a time of the Gentiles: the end of time can come only when the Gospel has been brought to all peoples." -p. 42
Then comes some interesting comments about the relation of the Jews to God's plan and the Church's mission.
"The essential point is that these times were both asserted and foretold and that, above all else and prior to any calculation of their duration, they had to be understood and were understood by the disciples in terms of a mission: to accomplish now what had been proclaimed and demanded--by bringing the Gospel to all peoples." -p. 43
"Here I should like to recall the advice given by Bernard of Clairvaux to his pupil Pope Eugene II on this matter. He reminds the Pope that his duty of care extends not only to Christians, but: 'You also have obligations toward unbelievers, whether Jew, Greek, or Gentile' (De Consideratione III/I,2). Then he immediately corrects himself and observes more accurately: 'Granted, with regard the Jews, time excuses you; for them a determined point in time has been fixed, which cannot be anticipated. The full number of the Gentiles must come in first. But what do you say about these Gentiles?...Why did it seem good to the Fathers...to suspend the word of faith while unbelief was obdurate? Why do we suppose the word that runs swiftly stopped short? (De Consideratione III/I, 3).'" -p. 44-45
Is the Pope saying we should not evangelize the Jews? I don't think he is saying that, certainly not in the individual, person to person sense. I think this has more to do with corporate vs. individual evangelization. The Church is called to take the Gospel to the Gentiles during this Age. In this way, Benedict is emphasizing the Church's first mission which is to "go to the nations" as Christ commissions in Matthew 28:19. The conversion of the Jews, corporately, is in God's hands, as suggested by Benedict's quote from Brem on page 45 as well as the one below. What do you think?
Prophecy and Apocalyptic in the Eschatological Discourse
"Israel is in the hands of God, who will save it "as a whole" at the proper time, when the number of the Gentiles is complete." -p. 46
"What is striking here is that this text is largely composed of Old Testament passages, especially from the book of Daniel, but also from Ezekiel, Isaiah, and other scriptural texts." -p. 49
"The old apocalypic text is given a personalist dimension: at its heart we now find the person of Jesus himself, who combines into one the lived present and the mysterious future." -p. 50
"The personalistic focus, this transformation of the apocalyptic visions--which still corresponds to the inner meaning of the Old Testament images--is the original element in Jesus' teaching about the end of the world: this is what it is all about." -p. 51
"Jesus' apocalyptic words have nothing to do with clairvoyance. Indeed, they are intended to deter us from mere superficial curiosity about observable phenomenona (LK 17:20) and to lead us toward the essential: toward life built upon the word of God that Jesus gives us; toward an encounter with him, the living Word; toward responsibility before the Judge of the living and the dead." -p. 52
With that last quote, all I can say is a hearty Amen!