Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Prepare for judgment!

[Posted originally on Facebook. A meditation, that grew from listening to the Dies Irae by Antonín Dvořak] 

The month of November is a time to pray especially for the dead. It is also a time to meditate on the Four Last Things: Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgment.

In our Catholic circles we don't often talk about the Judgment anymore. Read the saints and the preachers of ages past, and they always warned of the Judgment. I read in a Facebook post earlier today the comment, "I believe in Jesus the Redeemer. Not Jesus the Judge." Convenient, perhaps. But false.

One day we will be called to give an account of our life. Yes, the Lord is merciful, and His mercy, as St. James puts it, triumphs over judgment (Jas 2:13). However, His mercy IS His judgment, because with God, all is one simple ACT. To the unrepentant sinner, His mercy will appear as judgment, and a most terrible judgment. We should never presume upon His mercy, and thus be complacent with sin. Presumption itself is sinful, and is an abuse of the Lord's patience, and love which has as its goal, our conversion.

As we prepare for the Year of Mercy called for by the Holy Father, we should also examine our lives with respect to our own particular judgment, and let us not be fooled, there WILL be a particular judgment, no matter what the world says. The Gospel gives a good examination of conscience in the twenty fifth chapter of St. Matthew: visiting the sick, the imprisoned; feeding the hungry and clothing the naked -- the source of what the Church has called the corporal works of mercy. However, it would be a terrible blindness to think that that this is opposed also to personal moral conversion. Or that because I have been kind to strangers, or to the poor, it excuses sinfulness in my life elsewhere. There is no opposition between virtue and the works of mercy. In fact, the works of mercy make no sense without personal virtue, and the constant battle against sin. The Lord wants us to be holy (1 Thess 4:13). He wants to present the Church to the Father without stain or wrinkle or blemish of any kind! (Eph 5:27)

Yes, this is all a work of grace (Eph 2:8). But that doesn't mean it is not also our effort, a striving, a struggle. The same St. Paul who speaks so eloquently about grace, also wishes to win a crown (1 Cor 9:24), and fight a fight (1 Tim 6:12), and pummels his body and makes it a slave (1 Cor 9:27). We are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1). There are many things that will exclude us from the Kingdom, if unrepented (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21)!

Today I was at the house of a poor family -- the mother had died very tragically and very unexpectedly, leaving behind a wake of bewildered sorrow. The readings for the Vigil for Funerals remind us to always be prepared, to be awake and prepared. We never know how much time we have.

How would you fare if you this earthly life of yours were to end today? Would you be ready to face the Just Judge and his terrible Judgment seat?

Ven. Fulton Sheen tells us that we fear death because we do not prepare for it. Let us prepare for our death! We should die every day! Die to self, to evil, to selfishness, to sin! Let us be well prepared to meet the Lord, with our lamps well prepared, and lit with oil (Matthew 25:7, 10).

What does it profit a man if he were to gain the whole world, but lose his soul (Mark 8:36)? From the Lord who puts this to us, may we never hear, "Truly I tell you, I do not know you!" (Matthew 25:12)

This terrible interpretation of the Dies Irae (sadly, no longer used at Requiem Masses) by Dvořak is a powerful meditation on the Judgment. May it serve as a preparation for us for our own Judgment.

Ven. Fulton Sheen on the Judgment

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