Wednesday, April 24, 2013

THE LAST JUDGMENT


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Pope Francis has resumed a series of Year of Faith talks on various teachings of the Church that was started by his predecessor.  At his general audience on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, the Holy Father discussed the Last Judgment and the Second Coming of Christ.  As part of this Blog’s reflections on «Romero for the Year of Faith», we offer Archbishop Romero’s insights on the same topic.

Photo: Pope Francis emerges from the Conclave as Roman Pontiff, with Michaelangelo’s “Last Judgment” behind him.
The Apostles’ Creed asserts that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” Pope Francis noted as he began his reflection.  The Pope explicated the Biblical passage on the Last Judgment  (Matthew 25:31-46.)  The image used by the evangelist is that of the shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats,” said the Pope.  To the right are placed those who have acted according to the will of God, coming to the aid of the hungry, those who thirst, the stranger, those who are naked, the sick, those who are in prison.”  Then the Pope paused for an acknowledgement: “I said the stranger—I think of the many foreigners who are here in the diocese of Rome: what we do to them?  Then he continued, “While to the left are those who have not come to the aid of their fellow humans. This tells us that we will be judged by God on love, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the most vulnerable and needy.”
The Pope made an appeal for Christians to engage with the world.  A Christian who withdraws into himself, hiding all that the Lord has given us is not Christian!,” he said.  (C.f., Romero in his Feb 17, 1980 sermon: “The Christian who does not want to live this commitment of solidarity with the poor is not worthy to be called Christian.”)  That person is a Christian who does not thank God for everything he has given him,” said the Pontiff.  This tells us that the expectation of the return of the Lord is a time for action—we are living in the time for action—the time in which to capitalize on the gifts of God, not for ourselves, but for Him, for the Church, for others, a time in which to always try to grow goodness in the world,” said the Pope.  He made a special appeal to the young: “Bet on great ideals, ideals that enlarge the heart, ideals of service that will make your talents fruitful,” the Pontiff exhorted.  Dear young people, have a great spirit! Do not be afraid to dream big things!

Archbishop Romero expounded on the Final Judgment and its implications for our lives in his November 26, 1978 homily for the Feast of Christ the King.  Here are a few excerpts:

Saint John of the Cross has written some beautiful words: ‘In the evening of life you will be examined about love.’ We will not be examined to see if we have earned large sums of money or been applauded by people as if we were great in the eyes of the world and therefore praised and honored. Nothing like this will happen because all these realities will fade away. We will be examined about love. The essence of Christ’s message is contained in this passage about the final judgment and is presented to us by Saint Matthew: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink.’ Saint Matthew has not renounced his faith for indeed faith is the first impulse of women and men that draws them closer to God. But faith that does not reveal itself in practical love or in works is a faith that is dead. How many people say: ‘I know Christ! I try to pray to him!’ Yes, they pray to him like the priest in the gospel who left the injured poor Samaritan on the road because he was in a hurry to pray. Faith is not enough.
I tell you that at the time of the final judgment we will be surprised because we will see that the things that we thought were important are unimportant to Christ and that which we though was unnecessary is the basis on which Christ is examining us. ‘How did you treat those who were hungry and thirsty … those who represented me?’ In this country Christ is so profoundly present, my sisters and brothers, that it would be a shame to have lived surrounded by the presence of Christ (because we are surrounded by poor) and not to have known him. It would be a shame to live in comfort and wealth and political well-being and not be concerned about Christ who was at our doors or Christ who was walking on our streets.
Therefore when we despise the poor person, the harvester of coffee or sugar-cane or cotton or when we despise the campesinos who today travel in caravans in search of their sustenance for the year, we should remember that there is the face of Christ. The face of Christ is seen on the face of those who harvest our crops in sacks and baskets, on the face of those who are tortured and mistreated in our prisons, on the faces of those children who are malnourished and have nothing to eat and on the faces of those who ask the Church to be their voice. How could the Church deny them this voice if it is Christ who is asking us to speak for them?
I do not want to be on the wrong side at the time of the final judgment and hear the words: ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was in need and you did not care for me.’ In other words, you were more concerned about the purity of your orthodoxy, the quiet time of your prayer, your congregation or your school and you did not want to contaminate yourself with the humble. You were more concerned about your social, economic, or political prestige and therefore you despised me, the one who was asking you for help. This is the criteria that Jesus will use at the time of judgment. 

The final judgment will take place in the highest court where bribes will have no effect.

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