The Last Judgment: God grant it...Just Not Yet
Let’s share some Good News!
“Look up” says Christ, “and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).
If we were to search through all of the Gospels we may be surprised to know that when the judgment is preached by Christ—as it has been today—it is pronounced as Good News. Even the last words of St.John’s Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20) are written with hope and not fear. Perhaps, we more often align ourselves with the words of the Blessed Augustine: “O God grant it…but not just yet”!
So often, we think pointedly of a coming and graphic doom instead of a restful eternity. Yet, this morning, let us look at the judgment as Good News. Ultimately, it holds the promise that the Lord will return to gather His children and that suffering and evil will be no more.
Still, again, I pray to some extent that the Good News of judgment in this morning’s Gospel (Matthew 25:31-46) perks up our ears. But, that we are not concerned about our passing from this life and the worry of the judgment, for we will not have energy to worry then. This morning’s Gospel speaks nothing of death, doom, or even really about salvation; but speaks only of living.
I beg one question, perhaps the question we will be asked at the judgment—in the words of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom—“Are you a human being or are you outside the dignity of man”?
So often we use our humanity as the excuse for our not being like God. We will say of our sins: “I am only human” or “it’s human nature to do that”. Human nature is not an excuse, the fact of our humanity connects us to our God, in a way the angels and beasts of the earth can only dream of; in the words of St. Athanasius the Great: “God became Man, so that man could become like God”.
The Divine image has been implanted within each of us from the very beginning; Adam was created in this image, Eve, and their progeny as has every human ever created. Image is a given, to attain the likeness of God is the struggle of this life.
Dearest faithful, let us speak of Theosis, our growing in God-likeness, by our cooperation with His Grace in Pinocchian terms. It is certain we have all heard, read or watched the story of Pinocchio at some point in our lives. We know he is a puppet made of wood, and that his only goal, like ours, is to become a real boy (a real human), to lose his strings.
He is told in order to become a real boy, he first needed to trust the fairy at her word; he also had to be brave, truthful and unselfish. If we remember he had to choose between being a real boy or an overindulged jackass on Pleasure Island. In the end, his unselfishness is fully revealed in his selfless love as he offers himself to save his father, Gepetto, from the clutches of Monstro the whale.
Much the same is required of our becoming human, of our preparedness for the judgment:
-Trust in God’s saving grace.
-The bravery, of the early Christians as we faithfully look forward to the judgment.
-Honesty, both about who we are and in speaking with others (lest our nose also grow).
-Perhaps most importantly, unselfish in our offering of ourselves to others.
Brothers and sisters, if we truly believe and live as Christ does, we, having been found worthy of the earth, will be capable of continuous life eternal, inheriting as proper heirs, the Kingdom prepared for us (Matthew 25:34).
We will be found righteous, God-like, (sounds like Good News to me) if we live to fulfill our human potential by His Grace.