A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Coming in Judgment

The Season of Advent, of course, is a preparation for celebrating the coming of Christ at Christmas, but it is also a season to remember our need to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the world.

Indeed, in today’s Gospel (Matthew 24:37-44) on the First Sunday of Advent, our Lord warns us of this coming:

You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.

This is something we need to remember, even though we affirm this truth at least once a week in our recitation of the Creed at Mass.

For many of us (if not nearly all of us), the prospect of Judgment is fearful.

But our faith in Christ teaches us that the prospect of the Last Judgment is also full of hope. Pope Benedict has eloquently reminded us of this in his encyclical Spe Salvi, which he released two days ago:

"At the conclusion of the central section of the Church's great Credo—the part that recounts the mystery of Christ, from his eternal birth of the Father and his temporal birth of the Virgin Mary, through his Cross and Resurrection to the second coming—we find the phrase: 'he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead'.

"From the earliest times, the prospect of the Judgment has influenced Christians in their daily living as a criterion by which to order their present life, as a summons to their conscience, and at the same time as hope in God's justice.

"Faith in Christ has never looked merely backwards or merely upwards, but always also forwards to the hour of justice that the Lord repeatedly proclaimed. This looking ahead has given Christianity its importance for the present moment." (from Spe Salvi, 41)

"Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an 'undoing' of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright.

"For this reason, faith in the Last Judgment is first and foremost hope..." (Ibid, 43)

"The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope.

"Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear of which Saint Hilary spoke when he said that all our fear has its place in love.

"God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope.

"And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ.

"Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. ... Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.” (Ibid, 44)

"The judgment of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace.

"If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—Details from The Last Judgement by Pieter Pourbus, 1551the crucial question that we ask of history and of God.

"If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all.

"The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgment and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation 'with fear and trembling' (Phil 2:12).

Details from The Last Judgement by Pieter Pourbus, 1551"Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our 'advocate', or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).” (Ibid, 47)


Come Lord Jesus!

Come with justice.

Come with mercy.