Friday November 26, 2004 Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Revelation 20:1-4, 11-21:2) Gospel (St. Luke 21:29-33)
Our Lord, at the end of the Gospel reading today, tells us that heaven and earth will pass away but His words will not pass away. His word, of course, is the Word of God, and because it is the Word of God it cannot be changed and it can never go away because it is infinite. And because it is infinite, it must therefore be the very thing upon which our lives are founded because it is the way we are going to live for eternity (assuming, of course, that we go the right direction). It is incumbent upon us to know the Word of God, to know it well, and to be able to put it into practice. It is so easy to pick and choose, to justify ourselves when we feel like it by pulling something out of Scripture, twisting it, and putting it in the wrong context, but it is very difficult for us to be able to accept the fullness of the Word of God because, as always, it requires that we are going to have to get rid of a few things in our lives, make some changes, and start to live according to the way that we know we are really supposed to.
But it is most important that we do this because, as we heard in the first reading today, all of the dead are going to be judged according to their deeds. For our Protestant brothers and sisters who want to be able to say, “By faith alone you’re saved and you’re going to be judged according to your faith,” well, they have not read the Bible very well because Jesus Himself tells us that we are going to be judged according to our deeds. Certainly we have to have faith, and for those who have faith they have to act upon it, but they are going to be judged according to their deeds, according to what they have done in the body.
Now that means that the faith we have to have is not the Protestant concept of faith: “Jesus died for me, so I’m going to heaven. I believe that Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior.” That is not enough. The faith we have to have – and the virtue of faith, which is what is required – is to believe in every single thing that is the Word of God, in other words, every single thing that is taught by the Catholic Church. If we do not, we do not have the virtue of faith. If we want to pick and choose like so many Catholics do, we do not have the virtue of faith. Consequently, even if you want to say that you are going to be judged according to your faith, which is part of the judgment but not all of it, your judgment is not going to be a happy one because you are not accepting the fullness of God’s Word. God’s Word is Jesus Christ, and if you do not accept the fullness of Jesus Christ you cannot have any part of Him. You cut yourself off from Christ if you do not want to be part of Him. We have to accept the fullness of Who He is and the fullness of His Word. And that fullness of truth is found only in the Roman Catholic Church. If we do not accept the fullness of the truth, we do not accept the fullness of Christ, and it is according to that that we are going to be judged.
Now when we heard in the first reading about the judgment and Hades and Death giving up their dead, we ask, “How is this possible? I thought that once you were in hell you were there for eternity.” There are two judgments. There is the individual judgment (the personal judgment) and then there is the general judgment. When each of us go before the Lord at the moment we die for our own particular judgment, it is then that we are going to be judged and it will be determined whether we are going to spend eternity in heaven or in hell. At the very end of the world when everything passes away in fire – all the earth and all the elements and everything in the universe will pass away in fire – then there will be the general judgment where every soul that has ever been created from the beginning of the world will stand before God and all the sins of the entire world will be revealed. It is not to be able to shame anybody, but rather it is to be able to see the mercy of God. The souls in hell will know that if they would have simply repented they would have been forgiven because they will see the forgiveness of all of the sins that God has forgiven. They will see great sinners who have converted and are in heaven, while they themselves have chosen hell because they refused to change and seek the mercy of God. Once the general judgment has been demonstrated, at that point Purgatory will pass away and all the souls will go either to heaven or to hell.
For the souls who go to heaven, there will be the new heavens and the new earth, a new creation. There will be the resurrection when our bodies will rise from the dead and this new earth will be created, not like what we have today, not anything even remotely like what we have today, but rather it will be a glorified place for our glorified bodies. It will be heaven. But because in heaven we as human creatures are going to be there both body and soul, there is going to be something there for us because of who we are and how we are created. And so everything will be remade, everything will be perfect, everything will be beautiful, and everything will be true.
We can begin that now. We can begin by accepting the truth and by living the truth. Even in this world so corrupted by sin, there can be truth and goodness and beauty right within us in the way that we live, in the way that we act, in the way that we believe, because Jesus is the truth, Jesus is goodness Himself, Jesus is the beautiful One. If we allow ourselves to accept the fullness of Christ even in this world, we can live in the fullness of that truth and beauty and goodness. We can prepare ourselves for eternity in heaven by beginning to live that even now.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.