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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews’

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

That Christ will come with glory to judge the quick and the dead is an unalterable dogma.  It is plainly taught in the Holy Scriptures and by Holy Church.

We find this article of faith in the Creeds, the Gospels, and in the New Testament.  Attached to it is Christ’s judgement of sins.  We just said in the Nicene Creed:  “And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead….”  The Apostles’ Creed and the Advent collect say the same in slightly different words.  In order to be faithful Christians, we must believe this article of faith, that Christ will judge all men when He returns from Heaven.

 

Now, Advent is not simply the name of this season of the Church’s kalendar.  It means arrival, emergence, dawn, and occurrence.  It comes to us from the Latin words for to come.   Advent means Christ coming to us:  “O come, o come Emmanuel.”

In this holy season, our focus often rests on the prophecies leading up to Christ being born a babe in Bethlehem.  Today’s Epistle to the Romans (xv.12) reads:  “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.”  This is the first advent of Christ into the world.  We remember this when the priest reads the Last Gospel after Mass:  “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

The Second Coming of Christ is His returning in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Our risen and glorified Lord will then confront all mankind.  He will end the world as we know it and usher in a new world of redeemed mankind living fully the life of Heaven.

Today’s Gospel wondrously tells of Christ’s return.  In St. Matthew’s Gospel (xxvi.64b), Christ answers the high priest during His Passion, “nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

After Christ ascends into Heaven, angels tell the astonished apostles (Acts i.11):  “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Christ will return.  We do not know when.  Christ says in St. Matthew (xxv.13):  “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”

We know that Christ’s return will be spectacular.  Christ says in St. Matthew (xxiv.27), “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”  The Bible uses strange prophetic imagery regarding His return to convey truth beyond our experience.  Our knowledge of the Lord’s return is of necessity partial.

But we are promised that:

  1. The trumpet will sound and all men will hear it,
  2. Our bodies, whether living and dead, will change in an instant,
  3. The cosmic regeneration of a new heaven and a new earth will occur as the former will have passed away,
  4. Our Lord will appear in glory,
  5. We will all be judged according to our deeds, and
  6. God’s Kingdom will be perfectly established.

 

Divine judgement is the process whereby Christ determines the eternal fate of men.  All men live forever.  Christ’s judgement determines where and how we will live forever.  We mean two things when we speak of Christ’s judgement of our souls in the end:  His particular judgement of each of us upon our deaths and his general judgment of us all at His Second Coming.

Jesus is our judge.  St. Paul says in Colossians, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Christ is God.  He is omniscient.  He judges truly.  He plumbs the secrets of each man’s soul.  He better understands why we do things than we understand them ourselves.  He considers every fact in His judgement; He is unlike a human judge who only has a limited and fallible understanding.  Christ fully shares the love of God as creator and as redeemer.  He values the souls of men more highly than we value ourselves.

God created us good, but we, like a dog returning to its vomit, continually turn to sin, to destruction, to death.  What can God do with us in such a state?  He can either dispose of us or save us.  God has chosen to save us from sin and death.  With infinite love and grace unbounded God sent his only-begotten Son into the world to save us from our sins.  He restores us to life.  The judgement of God is personal, but if we step back, we may consider it as the presence of God which reveals the truth about our state.  In order to live with God in love forever, we must first be judged.  Christ’s presence effects judgement.

 

When we die, we face the particular judgement, one of the two last judgements of God.  Before this judgement, we faced the daily judgement of our conscience.

The particular judgement differs from the general.  It is less a formal judgement than the completion of our life’s work.  We will have lived our life and made our inclinations and habits known to Him.  It is a private affair between Christ and the soul.  It is preliminary.  It is the last of the long line of similar judgements in our life.  The time of decision is over, for we are dead.  If we have not stifled our conscience, we will have been judging our actions during our life.

As we look at ourselves and other men, widespread solid evidence of our salvation is not apparent.  We do not die perfectly loving, perfectly moral, and perfectly faithful.  One must be holy to live in Heaven, and we do not die holy.  Our righteousness is that of Christ, but Christ does not take over our selves, remove our free will, and govern our actions to be only righteous.

Christ judges us upon our deaths as either saved or damned.  If saved, our spiritual progress does not end there.  It continues on after our deaths until our dross is fully burned off, leaving only purity behind.  Isaiah (i.25) says:  “I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:”  One must not hold to the peculiar Roman doctrines of Purgatory, indulgences, and the treasury of merits to acknowledge the universal Church’s teaching on the matter.

God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-wise.  He can search a man’s heart and weigh what he finds, even if the man had few opportunities to make moral actions in the light of God’s revelation.  Out of the least opportunities in the young and the ignorant, Christ can make accurate and unerring judgements.  His judgement is not hampered by our limits.

If a man is damned at his particular judgement, it will be as Abraham said in the parable of Lazarus and Dives (St. Luke xvi.31):  “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”  Which is to say that the pattern of wickedness and resistance to goodness the man had chosen for himself during his life will carry on for eternity.

But for those who are who are saved comes something entirely different.  Hebrews (xii.14) reads:  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”  None of us reach perfection in this life of ours, this vale of tears, of labor and pain and death.  But we start a good work that is made perfect in Christ.  Christ makes us perfect.  Christ makes us holy.

All men, no matter what heights of holiness they have achieved in this life, will no doubt have much to learn and much to cast aside before they finally enter into God’s presence in Heaven.  Our personal journey towards perfection will continue on until the day of the Lord’s Second Advent.  The purification of our souls is precious for those who desire God.

There may be pain in this growth, as perfection in Christ might require a necessary suffering on our part to refine our imperfect souls.  St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians (iii.15), “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”  Rest assured, Christ will weigh our life upon our death, and we do not want to be found wanting.

 

The general judgement follows the Resurrection of the Dead at Christ’s Second Coming.  Having been raised from the dead, all men will stand before Christ our Judge.  Our Lord describes this in St. Matthew (xvi.27):  “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

The Revelation has a longer description of it (xx.11-15):

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

Sin is enticing.  If sin were not so tasty, nobody would sin.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were not only set for life, but for all eternity; yet sin was so tasty to them that they risked it all and suffered death and misery just for a bite.  We love our sin.  We love our greediness.  We love our booze and pills.  We love our prideful contempt of others.  We love talking behind each other’s backs.  We do love our sin.  So we focus on our beloved sin instead of Christ and His judgement.

We do not like to admit it, and perhaps some of us never will, but we tend not to live our lives as if we were in the presence of Christ.  Maybe we think that God has greater things to do than concern himself with our lives.  Maybe we act like atheists, living our daily lives as if God did not exist, not praying to him, not thanking him, and doing what we like instead of what he requires.

Reverend Fathers, brothers and sisters, it is better to judge ourselves now so that we may amend our broken and sinful ways while there is time.  When we die, we will no longer have time to repent and amend our wrong ways.  So must we comport ourselves and live our lives that we can joyfully and hopefully anticipate Christ’s Second Coming.

 

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

In our modern era, we expect the boundaries of knowledge to push further and further out.  The NEAR Shoemaker probe actually landed on an asteroid.  The Huygens probe landed on Saturn’s moon Titan.  Our rovers on Mars have tremendously expanded our knowledge of our neighboring planet.  Our submarines have discovered the resting place of the Titanic and dived to the deepest part of the ocean.  Mathematics, biology, and physics all more closely describe the natural world in which we live.  Engineering marvels abound.  We are so used to hearing of new discoveries that we hardly pay attention anymore.

But as limitless as this new knowledge seems, it shrinks in comparison to the Maker of our world and all that is therein, he who created all that is from nothing.  The beautiful natural order we discover was first marvelously wrought by God.  Without his creating all these things, they would not be there for us to discover little bit by little bit.  As seemingly infinite are our discoveries, they are but the design of our truly infinite God.

But God did not merely make his creation and then stand idly by, as many of our Eighteenth-Century forebears thought.  God made another kind of progress – a truer kind of progress, if you will – a progress from death into life, a progress from sin into holiness, a progress from dark ignorance to the full light of truth.

Our bodies decay and die.  Our science has taught us so much about the ways our bodies break down.  But what natural science cannot tell us is what comes after.  Our Bible does not tell us the many ways of cancer in our bodies.  But it does tell us about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who came down from Heaven and became one of us, Who died on the Cross and rose again, defeating eternal death once and for all.  God’s plans for us far exceed our aging bodies and diminishing number of friends.  God’s plans for us include life forevermore.

“Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” means that God’s work is constant and exceeds our imaginations and our desires.  God’s work in us is but a small taste of the work God is doing in the universe around us, both amongst other men and in the physical and supernatural universe which do not see.

Life in eternity is different than life here.  I don’t know exactly what it will be like, but it will be different than here.  Our lives here, struggling with sin, learning to love one another, learning to believe in Christ, are a preparation for the wonders to come.  Christ’s love for us, even when we did not deserve it, is a sign, a foretaste of what everlasting life in the presence of God will be like.  We cannot begin to plumb the depths of such life.

Father Theodore O. Wedel said that “A personal relationship with the forgiving God is the privilege of each member.”  In Christ, we come to know God.  God knows us more and loves us more than the sparrows of the air.  Therefore, we should “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews iv.16).  Likewise, as mutual members of Christ’s Body, we may ‘come boldly unto’ each other.  We are brothers and sisters together.  We are not just calling each other that for the duration of our service here on Earth, like brothers in arms.  We are speaking of eternity, unto ages of ages.  Amen.  In Christ, we remain brothers and sisters one to another permanently.

If we were true to our Savior, the world would stand silently in awe of our love of each other.  I know most of you.  I have been here for a year now.  When you think that you are mouthing off in private, sometimes father is watching.  We do not love each other as we ought.  We criticize each other without mercy.  The Blessed Virgin weeps over the way we treat each other.  Christ again sighs deeply over the antics of His disciples.  The Holy Ghost groans.  God the Father is not amused.  We tell each other to go to Hell, either failing to understand that that is a curse beyond all curses or truly hating our brother in our hearts and on our lips.  We vie for respect.  We hold grudges in our hearts.  We conspire with our friends against our brothers and sisters.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  God wants us in Heaven with him forever, but we cannot take our favorite hatreds and sins with us.  We must change.

 

How are you living your new life of miraculous wonder?  Are you acting more virtuously in your daily life?  Do you trust more and more profoundly in Christ?  Can your neighbors and family bask in the reflected love of Christ in you?  Would a look at your finances reveal evidence that you are a faithful Christian?

Or how about this:  The Duties of Churchmen.  Do you invariably worship on Sunday and major holy days when you are able?  Do you receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at least three times a year?  Do you fast as you ought?  Do you go to our Lord constantly to keep your conscience clean?  Do you tithe and give alms as you are able?  Do you keep the Church’s law of marriage, abstaining from all sexual impurity and nurturing the relationship with your spouse?

If you are not doing at least your minimum duty, then you have concrete evidence that something is wrong in your spiritual life.  For Christ’s Church to show forth His glory, she must be a living body of his.  Her members ought to live lives of faith, love, and virtue.

I have only been here for a year, but I have heard stories of members of this parish who lived lives of faith, love, and virtue.  This week we keep the first anniversary of the death of our dear sister Margaret Staulcup, or her “year’s mind”.  Mrs. Margaret is a wholesome example of an intentional life lived for Christ, a life which showed glory to God in her family, in her parish, and in her community.

I personally knew Mrs. Dorothy Baker and her abiding faith in our Savior.  In ways small and large, she too showed forth God’s glory in her family, in her parish, and in her community.

Unless our Lord returns in power and great glory first, we too shall die.  When it comes your turn to die, will people speak in reverential tones of your faith, of your love, and of your virtue?

 

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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