Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Particular and General Judgments

1. It is appointed unto men to die once and after this comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27). To have to appear before the face of the Living God is terrifying for everybody. How much more terrifying will it be for the sinner? Weighed down by numberless sins, he will stand before the scrutinising gaze of God. He will be able to hide nothing. Everything will be evident and clear. The countenance of our Divine Redeemer, which was mild and merciful during life, will at that moment be that of a severe and just judge. After having scorned so many graces, after having spurned so many calls to conversion and so many secret inspirations to change his life, after dying unrepentant...behold the sinner in the presence of his Eternal Judge. At that moment he will hear the irrevocable sentence resounding in his ears: Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41). This terrible condemnation will be publicly repeated, moreover, at the general judgment.

2. How consoling, on the other hand, the last judgment will be for those who have led good lives. They will see God looking upon them with love and mercy and will hear from Him the wonderful invitation: Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Mt. 25:35).

On the day of the general judgment these words will be repeated for the confusion of the wicked and the consolation of the good.

Now that we have considered both sides of the picture, let us think deeply about it. We shall have to render an account for all the evil we have done, of all the good things we did badly or from distorted motives, of all the good actions we omitted to do, and of all the time we wasted. Let us examine our consciences carefully before God, our supreme Judge. Let us form whatever firm and worthwhile resolutions seems to be demanded by the circumstances of our lives. Remember that as we have lived, so shall we die, and we shall be judged accordingly.

3. St. Catherine of Siena believed that loyalty to the church and devotion to the Blessed Virgin were two pledges of salvation. In one of her letters she wrote that "he will not die forever who serves the church faithfully." Elsewhere she said that "out of reverence for the Word, the Divine Goodness has granted Our Lady the privilege that any man, good or sinful, who pays her due honour, will not be taken captive by the devil." Consequently, we need not be inordinately afraid of death or of the final judgment, if we love the Church, obey her commandments, and work generously for her triumph in the universe, and if we show a filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin, pray to her and imitate her in virtue as far as possible.

It will be profitable for us to think about death and the last judgment (Cf. Ecclus. 7:36). It will moderate our impatience in tribulations and our inordinate pleasure in consolations. It will be a stimulus to perseverance in good action.

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