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Posts Tagged ‘Second Advent’

“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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“Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

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

 

Heaven

 

What do we know of Heaven?

All Christians are assured a place in Heaven, a place unattainable except through Christ.  Christ has ascended into Heaven, and Christ will descend on the Last Day in order to judge the quick and the dead.  Even those Christians who are completely purified of their sins and have gone on into Heaven are not reunited with their bodies, for that will happen at the General Resurrection, when the body and soul together enjoy God’s presence forever.

Heaven is a place, but we have no information on the dimensions of it “or its relation to the physical universe” (ODCC).  Heaven is the place of the fulfilment of the original destination of Man, to live with God in communion with him forever.  There we shall “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” (Westminster Catechism)

Father Francis J. Hall writes that Heaven: “…frequently denotes the place above which is at once the sphere of God’s open self-manifestation, the region from which Christ came and to which He has ascended, and the abode of the holy angels.”

Importantly, Heaven is the place “wherein the Kingdom which Christ came to proclaim and establish among men in this world is triumphantly brought to its complete and permanent consummation.”

St. John Baptist prepared the way of the Lord and has shown us the future, which Christ fulfills.  Christ addresses this in today’s Gospel, saying to St. John’s disciples:  “…the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  All these point to the final disposition of all who faithfully follow Christ.

We ask what Heaven will be like, and we should look to Christ’s very words.  God’s truth is whole, is entire.

As St. John says in the fourth verse of the twenty-first chapter of his Revelation:  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

When we read the Revelation of St. John, it is not hard at all to see that this is where “the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

But before St. John recorded his Revelation and before Christ said these words, the prophet Isaiah prophesied in chapter 35:  “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing….”  And then he continues:  “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

These are all completions.  The lack of sight, with its challenges and social stigma, is completed by the restoration of vision.  The lack of hearing, with its challenges and social stigma, is completed by the restoration of hearing.  The lack of mobility, with its challenges and social stigma, is completed by the restoration of the ability to walk.  Those suffering the disease of leprosy, with its physical horror and social alienation, are cured of their debilitating disease.  Those who are poor, that is, the meek of this earth, have the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven preached to them.  Where there is disability, Christ brings physical completeness.  Where there are outcasts from society, Christ brings community.  Where there is poverty and the struggle to live, Christ brings life everlasting.

Christ’s ministry is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  Christ’s ministry culminates in the blessed vision of St. John.  That which is lacking will be made full; that which is broken will be mended.  Christ came to heal our broken and sin-sick world.  At the Last Day, as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

These words of Christ point out to us the trajectory that He and His ministry are on.  The sick, the tired, and the lonely of this world will be restored.  We lost the garden through our sin and self-centeredness.  Christ has come to restore our relationship to God and to each other.  This is Heaven:  The presence of God and our presence with him and all his faithful.

Thus, truly is today Gaudete Sunday.  “Rejoice!” is the first word of today’s Introit.  Rejoice, my children, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  As it was announced by St. John Baptist, so it is fulfilled by Christ our God and our King.

We recall and hearken unto St. John Baptist’s words as we prepare the way for Christ’s Second Advent.  Indeed, if we only think of Christ coming to us as a baby in the manger and do not think of Him coming to us with power and great glory bearing the wounds of the Cross, then we are missing the essential mission of Christ:  To set us free from sin and suffering and death, reconciling us to God.

For we shall not enter Heaven, into the presence of God forever, the way we are.  We are not yet ready; we are living in sin; we need saving; we must repent; we are not ready for God until we live entirely for God and get purified by God from all that keeps us away from him.

This is why in this life we must devote ourselves to learning all we can about God and loving him as much as we can, and Christ becoming a baby in Bethlehem and dying for us on the Cross lets us know Him.  This is why in this life we must search out our sins and repent of them, confessing them to God and turning from our evil ways, so that we might be purified of those things which shall keep us away from God forever in Hell.  This is why in this life we must work diligently and hard to love our neighbors as ourselves, so that we may start participating in that taste of Heaven on earth which we call Holy Church, brotherly love, self-sacrificial loving-kindness.

If we love God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds, if we repent of our sins, and if we love our neighbors as ourselves, then we shall truly be ready for Heaven when Christ returns in power and great glory to judge both the living and the dead, and the dead shall rise first and we shall meet Him in the air.

Then we shall live in the brilliant heavenly realms with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost with all the blessed saints in Christ, our brothers and sisters, as well as the heavenly host.  And what a grand time we shall have then!

 

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

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

 

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