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JUDGMENT: Coming to a Soul Near You

Updated on December 26, 2023

God’s desire is to be loved rather than feared.” ~ Saint Peter Chrysologus

Simplicity and the keen use of metaphor highlights today’s 1st Reading (Jeremiah 18:6) wherein the Lord comes to the prophet Jeremiah in a vision, imploring him to rise up and go to the potter’s house. It is there where Jeremiah, upon arriving, closely observes the potter at his wheel. It is there where he will understand that which he is to preach to the broken people of Israel.

“Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased” Jeremiah noted. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?“ asked the Lord in rhetorical fashion. “Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.“

God affords Jeremiah the opportunity to visualize His unending desire to shape us, to mold us, to allow us to begin anew, urging us to “try again” whenever what we have done “turns out badly,” offering us forgiveness and all the other divine graces associated with this Sacrament that we call Reconciliation. Through forgiveness and the cultivation of a strong and persevering faith, we can become far more than we realize in God’s skilled hands.

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 13:47-53), Jesus continues to evangelize about the Kingdom of Heaven, a topic touched upon yesterday But in today’s teaching the focus turns specifically to that of judgment.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind”Jesus explains. “When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age.”

In his book “The Four Last Things - A Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell,” Father Wade Menezes explains rather succinctly that “Our judgment will depend on how we live this earthly life of ours. If we have honestly done our best and have followed the commandments of Christ, we shall be rewarded with the perfect life of Heaven. If, however, we have disregarded His loving directions and refused to make use of His generous help, we shall be condemned to hell.”

Today’s Gospel is not the only foreshadowing of judgment in Scripture. Saint Paul for instance writes to the church in Corinth “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10). There are many other examples, Acts 17:30-31, Matthew 24:30, and Luke 12:35-36 to name but three more.

There is the Particular Judgment, wherein we stand before Jesus at the moment of our death, and the Final Judgment, which will take place when Jesus returns in His glory. But as Saint John Chrysostom once so poignantly stated “We must busy ourselves with preparations for our departure from this world. For even if the day when the whole world ends never overtakes us, the end of each of us is right at the door.” Or to quote the prophet Isaiah “...and in an instant, suddenly, you shall be visited by the Lord of Hosts.” (29:5-6).

It’s interesting if not coincidental to note that, dotted throughout Father Menezes’ simple but powerful reflection on the Church’s eschatology, we find numerous quotes from the man whose Feast Day we celebrate today, whose words in fact kick off today’s Reflection, Saint Peter Chrysologus. Dubbed the “Doctor of Homilies” in a nod to the fullness of his theologically-rich Gospel reflections, Saint Peter Chrysologus was known for his courageous testimony to Christ’s full humanity and divinity during the time of the Monophysite Heresy. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729.

“Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ,” he would often say, a nod to the vigilance needed in aligning ourselves with the forces of good while turning away from the empty promises and lies that are incessantly conjured up by the Prince of Lies, Satan himself. For Saint Peter Chrysologus, preparing for the day of judgment was a matter of living an “eternity-minded” existence. “Why is it,” he once asked, “that you ask how you were created but do not seek to know why you were created?” We are created to live in the Beatific Vision ~ Heaven ~ for all of eternity.

We rely on Jesus’ mercy and willingness to unceasingly forgive in order to achieve this destiny, but it is important to understand that we are living in this time of His mercy right now. After we’ve breathed our last, judgment, and judgment only, awaits. This is why it is impossible to overstate the cruciality of the Sacrament or Reconciliation. This is why we must attend Mass as often as we can, certainly on Sunday, but Daily Mass whenever possible as well. In his book The Hidden Treasure of Daily Mass, Saint Leonard explains that “At the hour of death, the Holy Masses that you have heard devoutly will be your greatest consolation. Every Mass will go with you to judgment and will plead pardon for you.” Saints Leonard goes so far as to say “One Holy Mass heard during your life will be of more benefit to you then many heard for you after your death.”

I close with a final quote from Saint Peter Chrysologus, one which speaks to God the Father’s desire to embrace his children, to one day welcome each one of us home to the Heavenly Kingdom on the heels of being judged worthy to dwell in His presence forever:

Listen to the Lord's appeal: . . Come, then, return to me and learn to know me as your father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.”

Saint Peter Chrysologus, pray for us . . .

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor
Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

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