I thought I’d share a final “Advent-ish” type meditation for these last few hours of Advent. It is traditional to preach in Advent on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. This particular meditation is about judgment.
The Advent season collect makes it clear that at the last day, Jesus will come in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead. He came quietly the first time. Next time he will come in such a way that no one will miss it. Next time he is going to judge the living and the dead. Next time we are going to find out who ends up in heaven and who ends up in hell.
It is a mistake to think of judgment as coming only at the end of the world. Judgment does come then, of course—the General Judgment of all the world, but judgment also comes at the end of our lives—the Particular Judgment, also called the Personal Judgment, when our lives will be weighed in a balance at the moment the soul separates from the body. At that moment we will be judged, and souls that are perfectly pure will be admitted to the Presence of God; souls that are in a state of mortal sin are sent to eternal punishment, and for most of us, it will be determined how much purgation our souls will need before we’re fit for heaven.
Judgment is not limited to the end of time or the end of life, however; judgment is coming this evening when you go to Christmas Eve Eucharist—the “ChristMass.”
The judgment that Jesus will bring at the end of the world will not be substantially different from the one you will experience this evening.
But perhaps you didn’t know that you are facing judgment in the Mass.
One of my dirty little secrets is that I listen to Christian radio. Sometimes I listen to a local affiliate of the Catholic Radio Network, of course, and sometimes to a local property of the Salem Communications company. Relax, friends, I don’t listen to what is called “Christian contemporary music.” One must maintain some standards!
Well, the other day I heard a person on one station start talking about “end times prophecies,” and quicker than you could say “anathema sit” I hit the preset for the local conservative talk station instead. Surprisingly, that station was in the midst of a call-in show, and one of the callers was matter-of-factly relating Iran’s nuclear development with some bizarre gog-magog theory based on misinterpretations of the Revelation to St John the Divine!
Well, I lost no time turning to my local non-NPR classical station, just to run smack into pledge week. I began to feel as if there was a divine message telling me to turn off the radio completely!
Which I did.
Then today, whilst on an errand for fish (note to Wendy’s: Fridays don’t only come in Lent, so you need to bring back your fish sandwich year-round), I was listening to the local Catholic station and heard a succinct description of the Catholic position on the end-times topic.
I was so happy to hear things put so clearly, and I determined that this needed to be set forth in an Anglican blog, so here goes. If you’re a generic protestant Christian, or a cultist (yeah, let’s save that one for another post), or if you’ve been duped by fundies or fringies, have a look at the truth about the Christian teaching concerning pre- and peri-finem events.
- Millennium. There is no millennium. There is especially no secular millennium.
- Tribulation. There is no tribulation. Actually, that’s not true–there is a tribulation, but it is simply the experience of the Church under persecution, and it has been happening since AD 29, continuously, somewhere.
- Rapture. There is no rapture. The silliness of the “Left Behind” books is a load of codswallop. If you want to be sucked up into the sky, you need to be Enoch, Elijah, or the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. Personally, that’s not a club I qualify for.
- Second Coming. Ah, here is the kernel of truth in the falsehoods preached by false teachers. There IS a second coming. No one knows when it will be, not even loonies with mystical theories and numerical analyses of the number of letters in the third syllables of the seventh words in each book of the NT. At the second coming, Christ will come again, in glory, to judge the living and the dead. This is the Final Judgment.
If you’d like the brief summary from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which does get this right):
- Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church, but all the things of this world are not yet subjected to him. The triumph of Christ’s kingdom will not come about without one last assault by the powers of evil.
- On Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of history.
- When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace.
- This is the best time of year for these sorts of ideas, for the Church has traditionally preached on The Four Last Things during Advent. The Four Last Things, of course, are Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.