Some more words on “Judgment…” Why do we spend time on this topic in this Advent season?
First, “Advent” means “Coming.” In the Great Coming of The Lord Jesus in Glory, of what the Church awaits, what follows after The Return is judgment, the one of which God will make upon us, and we are asked to be prepared for it. So, obviously, we need to look into this aspect of life—for all will be reviewed under God.
Second, the focus on The 4 Last Things is timed in this season before Christmas because of the connection that there was a First Advent and Promise of God’s Coming: All Culminated and Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus Christ. Thus, if God kept His Promise of Coming to us in Christ Jesus, in that first one, then wouldn’t His promise of a Second Coming be one God would also keep?!
It’s a good pairing to see these two Advents are closely related.
It’s a bad idea to skip around this review of life and this examination of conscience and this survey of how we even live under the basic Golden Rule. For we live in the Advent of Christ’ Return. The Church professes that reality in each Mystery of Faith in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer. It’s a reminder there of how we especially need Eucharist and one received in a good disposition of soul, alive in hope, faith and charity.
Jesus wants us to work on ourselves, knowing that God will surely and fully examine our lives in the end. There will be a particular judgment of every person’s life before God, and then, following later, a fuller and general judgment of our life as intertwined to the many other people we were involved with. In that general judgment, if you were an American in this era, then you will be co-accountable and responsible for the sins we made as a nation and people. (Or the omissions.) I remind people frequently about this, of how they ought to confess it so in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Example: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned as being part of a nation that has aborted its young in the womb.” Such an admission in confessions today should be frequent, for even if one may never have taken part in it personally, the fact is that you were part of a whole that allowed it to go on in your time and society. Pope Francis would take it even to a larger scope, that the homelessness of the world (refugees, migrants, exiles, aliens) has still too little response from the world (and the Church) who pride themselves on being ‘decent’ to their neighbor, but can come up short. A general judgment will come for our allowing such displaced persons no welcome among us. (Our neighborliness has conditions and limitations to it.)
The particular judgement that happens first, after death or at the Lord’s Second Coming, will be for our individual accounting to God, for the personal things in our free choices and how we spent our life. We may have more knowledge of what those things are—and if we are honest about ourselves, it should convict us to see ourselves as a sinner. By grace we are led to become a saint, yet we know our falling short of holiness in some categories and instances.
The General Judgment is not looked upon as intently by people as their problem, but we all shall see that there is more that we didn’t notice or connect or take responsibility for—that God always did see going on corporally. He has always called us to live for the Common Good, and He has reminded His followers that they are saved as a people, and not just as an individual person. He has taught us that we are stewards in this world and our brother’s/sister’s keeper. It won’t be a new revelation to us in the end of life of this general, all-together review of things– yet it is sure that many will be startled at it. But why so? Have we not been called forth to a unity and a peace and a love for eternity as God’s own?! Doesn’t that vocation ask something deeply of us? Jesus said to a bunch of Galileans: “Come and Follow Me… Deny the “self” and take up your cross and follow me.” It makes sense that The Lord Jesus will take not of who actually did come and follow, willfully and gratefully.
Knowing of this eventuality that we shall stand before God soon in some judgment coming, we prepare and we go into an Advent mode (for the Coming of the Lord). We all are called to love one another, and to live into the Truth, and act upon the mercy of God.
I was talking to a Catholic scholar who is pretty knowledgeable about teachings of the End Times. They spoke to me that, before any concerns of how we will fair at the Judgment Seat of Christ, there are some very difficult things the people will have to face in the latter days of time. As to these final tests, St. Paul admonishes the Thessalonians (2 Thess.2,3) that they must not be terrified, as if the Day of the Lord were at hand, for there must first come a revolt (in the Greek: apostasia). This means a large turning away of people from The Church in apostasy. The Fathers and interpreters understand by this revolt a great reduction in the number of the Faithful through the abandonment of the Christian religion by many nations. Some commentators cite as confirmatory of this belief the words of Christ: “But yet the Son of man, when He cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?!” (Luke, 18, 8).
Besides a waning of faith and faithful ones, St. Paul indicates as another sign of the Day of the Lord, which is the revelation of the man of sin, the son of perdition. “The man of sin” here described is generally identified with the Antichrist, who, says St. John (1 Eph., 2, 18), is to come in the last days. Although much obscurity and difference of opinion prevails on this subject, it is generally admitted from the foregoing and other texts that before the Second Coming of how there will arise a powerful adversary of Christ, who will seduce the nations by his wonders, and persecute the Church. This Antichrist could be on the planet right now, as far as we know.
He will have a severe spirit of accusing and hating the people of The Lord, though at first he will come across as just trying to help people out.
He will have a field day on people who have been hiding some serious sins, on those who won’t sincerely repent and be converted by God—as the Antichrist will point out their lives as being hypocritical or too harsh or too demanding of others. These Christ-believers in his scope will be announced as bad influencers on society, to be stopped. The Antichrist will lead a rebellion versus the Church, and he will do so at a time when she is reeling and hurting, seeming in retreat, and dropping in numbers. (This is the same evil spirit that led the Roman emperors to so war against the early Catholics, even feeding us to lions, blaming us for Rome’s burning, singling us out for natural disasters, and other upside down evil is good and good is bad views of things.
One of the ways the early Catholics, as well as Catholics today can stand aright, is to choose to live in The Light and to call one another to live as one in The Light and Truth of our faith. Rather than wane in the faith, or fall into fear and timidity, we go back to a prophet Jeremiah-style faith, willing to suffer for God’s Name and to call forth for a covenant stand in God’s elect. We are called to be faithful to God, and to help one another to be faithful to God.
It means we will not hide our faith, nor our faults—but be more true to one another. It means we will review what the Lord has asked of us, and we shall together seek to obey and serve Him in it. We are to be good models to one another, and to be good judges of one another for accountability to God.
Yes, I said good judges.
We know the Lord comes as Judge to us all, but His will and revelation of good is already given out, and we can know it and teach it and live it out, as assisting one another to truthfully heed the call. God should be served! We should be the ones serving Him, and thus serving one another to live in truth. While a Church falls into apostasy, we will need to band together and live the Truth of the Faith. (Take a time someday to read how St. John’s three letters all deal with his asking the First Church to have love and truth at work amongst them, even as they endured a persecution.)
But the world all so often clamors “Don’t judge me!” Even we fellow Catholics speak in this worldly way, sometimes, to one another. ‘Don’t you judge me, who are you to do so?’ That is what one believer might badly say to another. Yet we are believers called to be our neighbor’s keeper! We can speak the truth in love to one another. Jesus said: “A new commandment I give you, to love another.”
When we speak of the Gospel call of Jesus and of the Bible’s call (and Church’s call) to the holy and moral life people should have in this world—it regularly gets met with scorn and rejection. They will even try to quote a Bible line to us, of a “don’t judge me” message, as in Didn’t Jesus say: ‘Judge not lest you be judged’ to His disciples?” But there is some bad theology at the root of that interpretation. Specifically, when Jesus said, “Judge not lest you be judged,” (Matthew 7:1) people interpret that He was teaching that we are not to judge, as in we can’t go notify someone that they are sinning (even if they are).This could not be further from the truth. Jesus is not telling us never to judge, but to judge fairly. Listen to the rest of what Jesus said in context of Matthew 7, (verses 2-5): “For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged.” Jesus means that if you judge out of vengeance or with evil intent, well then, God will deal with you over this, but if you judge honestly and with good intentions, God’s judgment of you will reflect this too.
There are people in some clear states of sin, as defined by Scripture and Catechism, and they would be helped by The Church and caring disciples of Jesus and His Truth to bring that to light for them. This is not judgmental, but a loving act, as this is caring for the person to come to the Light, and out of the darkness. It is judging correctly. We all are sinners and in need of help to become free of the grip of it.
In any case, the teaching of Christ and His Church is that God’s judgment is coming, and for it we must be prepared. We can help one another to come under the Light of God, so that, in the finality of things, we shall have dealt with matters pertaining to God’s standard of good.
Here’s a related verse in the Sermon on The Mount: “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Luke 6:38). Here, Jesus is telling us that God’s judgment, coming eventually upon us, will depend on whether we use exaggerations and other dishonest means when we judge.Yet: If we judge with fairness and compassion, then we will be judged the same way. We would certainly like that kind of judgment from God, not some harsh standard that we set upon ourselves under Him. But the point is of how we are to help one another to goodness, righteousness and holiness.
I recall a time in college when I had a colleague who was Catholic, and the more time I spent with him (as we had a job together and shared some social circles), I realized that he was committing a lot of fornication and with various partners. He was addicted to this lifestyle, and he used people in it, to feed his lust. I invited him to go to Mass along with me, hang out in some spiritual avenues, and to talk as brother Catholics. I lovingly tried to nudge him and direct him out of his serious sin. It got to the point when he turned on me, lashed out on me, and took actions to offend, ridicule and harm me—even after we had been friendly for months beforehand. He got all in attack mode on me. He claimed I was “judging” him, but all I was doing was shining some light of Jesus on him. He took to hating me.
I had to accept these actions as part of my witness to him. I had sought to help him to get back closer to Christ. I got thunder and lightning bolts for it from him. But I had just sought to care for him. That’s what I was giving. I hope God can measure out things caringly and slowly for me, for I know that sin can entice anyone, and I could have been caught in his situation, instead. We all are capable of a fall into serious sin. But the loving person will help us to get out of the mud of it. It is what Christ does.
As for judgment, if Jesus were given the P.C. business of today, and had succumbed into it, then He would not have spoken any words of the Sermon on the Mount, in His calling people into a blessed way of life and out of our selfishness and separation from God! If measured by P.C. police of today, He would have been called hurtful and judgmental of others! Yet Jesus’ intention was to lead us into an eventual perfection of life and holiness before God. He sums up that plan by His teaching, “Be perfected, just as the Heavenly Father is perfect, (and henceforth calls you into The Light).” [A Sermon of the Mount phrase.]
We are not perfect yet, and actually far from it, most of us, but the goal is to head towards it, in the Light of Christ. He will be perfecting us as we draw near to Him.
Or, as recorded in Peter’s epistle in its 1st chapter, Jesus calls His people into a united and universal call to holiness, going on pilgrimage with us, together, towards The Light. “Live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy.”j Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning.”
Perhaps if we get carried away at looking at the smaller faults of others, while ignoring our own bigger ones, then we can hear what Jesus taught some of the pompous religious authorities of His day, saying: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41) So, it is not to accuse and blame others as bad, while pretending we are superior or better—but to just try to be a co-helper on the journey for good.
For the perspective of Our Lord is how we are to act as our brother’s and sister’s keeper, as their good neighbor. His plan for our renewal is that we would love our brother and sister, as Jesus loves them, and they to us. In this way, we both get called into a higher truth and charity.
All through my adulthood, I have witnessed the escalation of the abuse of sexuality by our younger generations, leading to anti-life measures and of regular practices now of terminating pregnancies, all due to selfishness and impatience and lies of convenience of people. This all came because of the consequences of their sex out of marriage. I have mourned this downslide of sexual love into disrespect and denial and degradation of humanity, of this way—most particularly of all the abortions that have resulted of it. When I reached out to my college colleague and co-worker, I thought of how he would be likely answering to some abortions in his life, and that it might lead him into the darkness, rather than the Light he belonged in, (as a Catholic). I reached out to him, not in judgment, but in love and truth. I reached out to him to try to stop abortion, as going on in my college circle. I knew where the clinics were for these abortions, and I couldn’t believe what they were performing there, as if it were like a new Holocaust in my time. I knew that it was no sick, angry nor hateful judgment, in that I had distaste for what my college community was doing in the dark, but that I was caring for the world under God to get back to respect and life affirmation and human dignity again in sex.
Jesus commands us to live the commandments and to go even further in goodness (as in practicing out the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 or the Care for Others lessons in Matthew 25). Jesus even says that we are to teach others God’s commandments and holy ways for humankind, and does so rather strongly, “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). Jesus says we are not judgmental of others for trying to win the world back to life under God’s reign, but that God will be judgmental, as is His right, upon those who messed with His commands and led people to do the opposite.
There are other times in the New Testament where we are instructed to ‘judge’ one another’s actions: Just take a read of Matthew 18:15-17, or John 7:24, or 1st Corinthians 6:2-3.
So also does the Spiritual Works of Mercy tell us to “to admonish sinners and to instruct the ignorant.” It is a mercy to tell someone about their sin, because it is done with the intention of helping them become closer to God. We let the Spirit lead us in love and humility and of who to reach out to.
Yes, there are some Christians who go too far in telling other people of their sins, as they come off as pompous, mighty, better-than, and self-righteous. We aren’t advocating that. We also have no part in telling people off as if we can tell them they are condemned or cursed.
Jesus does teach us not to judge the heart, nor ever to condemn someone to Hell. That is what the people wanted to do to the woman caught in adultery. In John 8:1-11, Jesus stops the crowd from condemning the woman by telling them not to throw a stone unless they are without sin. But after He forgives her, He tells her to sin no more. He corrects the sinner.
This episode in Jesus’ life helps us to have a model of how to love, care, admonish, and get on a compassionate level with others.
We are commanded to judge the sin, not the sinner. When we point out someone else’s sin, we should do so with love and compassion, and with the intent of helping the person see that their actions are not only hurting others, but hurting themselves. We should want them to see that their relationship to God is more important than anything, and that it is important to us as well. When we sum it all up, it is a message of love and faith.
The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death. He will rejoice in His followers who choose life and love in His Name and Inspiration.
But when the unveiling of eternity actually occurs, the level of joy and consolation will be beyond what we can even imagine now. Justice will roll like a river,” said the prophet Amos. All will be made right. As to the reward for Christ’ followers, can we even imagine how God will delight in us for trusting in Him?
For “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
The Judgment of God will not just be a reckoning against the bad that had been done in offense to Him, but it will be a Great Day of Vindication and Reward for the Good done through the ages. We will see how our personal actions of faith and love made its change in us to be “new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)” and how it went out in fantastic ripple effect in blessing others. The Particular Judgment might be quite exciting in revelation to the disciple of Christ. As for the General and Common Judgment, we also might be surprised of just how inter-connected the Church was in time and history and place, and how it was the main vehicle for God’s good and just intervention in the world. We will see how we were used as Christ’ Body, His hands and feet (a Mother Teresa phrase) for Him to serve and move about the earth in our open lives. That timeline of ripple effect of “us” touching the world with Christ in us, might be the most surprising thing about us to be found in the Last Judgment. For a lot of good has been done throughout the ages in the Name of God.