Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
And so, in the Creed we confess at every Divine Liturgy that our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ “shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.” Not only do we confess such a thing, but we also confess to “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the world to come” (Nicene Creed). In other words, we believe that Jesus will come again to judge us all, and we look forward to it! I wonder: Is that true? Do we “look for the resurrection of the dead, and the Life of the age to come”? Is His Coming at the end of the ages and the Judgment events we are expecting and anticipating? Are we eager for the conclusion of all the ages or does its prospect evoke some anxiety? How will we fare when we must stand before the great tribunal of God Almighty from Whom “no creature is hidden from His sight” for “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account” (Hb. 4:13)? How often do we traverse life without giving nary any heed to our sins or to our sinfulness so used to it have we become that its just, well, us – who we are and how we are? Do we approach God somehow banking on our not being like the other guy ahead
of us in the judgment line? Do we operate on the assumption that we’ll get a pass?
There is much that will go into the verdict rendered one day by God upon us. To be sure, faith in Him will be critical, but the question will be: Did that faith matter? Did it make a life changing difference in us so that we thought differently with the mind of Christ, saw others as He sees? Did we do unto others as our Lord desires us to do? Did we intentionally align our will with God’s will and purposes? Were we humble of heart and soul? Were we obedient to God and to our spiritual father who is the icon of Christ to us? Were we faithful to Jesus’ Bride, the Church? Was forgiveness and mercy characteristic of us, accurately descriptive of how we lived out the Faith we confessed? Were we compassionate to those in need? It is quite clear in Sacred Scripture that what we do will be the basis of God’s evaluation and examination when we all one day must stand before Him (2 Cr. 5:10; Rv. 20:12; 22:12). It is in this body of flesh that we either did good or we did not do good, and it is with this same body resurrected at the end that we will be judged – “’they that have done good unto the resurrection of Life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation,’” as our Lord says. Let not that word “evil” offer us false hope, however. Anything not good is not of God, thus making it evil. St. John the Theologian in his First Epistle says this:
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as [God] is righteous. He who sins [i.e., does not practice righteousness] is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. . . . In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: . . . . (1 Jn. 3:7-8, 10).
As much as we would like a third option, preferably one that is in the middle, the Apostle doesn’t give us one. Biblically, it’s one or the other: we’re either for God or we’re not. There is no compromise with the devil. If we love the world and all that is in it, that is, if we yearn for what the world offers us and that’s what we go after – “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” – St. John is pretty clear: the love of God the Father is not in us and we are of the world. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it,” he says, “but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
Of course, at no time does the Theologian ever think that Christians don’t ever sin. He states from the outset that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). In fact, St. John goes as far to say that we make God out to be a liar, and that God’s Word does not abide in us if we insist that we are not sinners (1 Jn. 1:10)! He, then, goes on to say that he’s writing these things so that we do not sin. Because sin is unbecoming for one who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, that is, the habitual practicing of sin, sin as a way of life and our accepted “normal” behavior. But, “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” Who is the Sacrifice, not only for our sins, but for those of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:1-2). For, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Our proper righteousness is found only in Jesus Christ and it is made ours by way of humility, repentance, confession, and absolution throughout all our earthly days. We are promised by Jesus that those whom He has ordained to priestly orders have His power and authority, that is, His Holy Spirit, to forgive or remit sins that are confessed and repented of (Jn. 20:21-23). Why would we not seek to be rid of our sins permanently by seeking the Mystery of Reconciliation? Unless, of course, the devil has convinced us that we’re safe and okay without it? Why, then, would our Lord even bother to tell us otherwise if that were the case? Or, do we believe that confession and absolution is really for the other guy, the one who really needs it? We’re not like that guy, however!
If we sin, we need it. We need the divine Mystery of Reconciliation. It is a very good thing for us to do, something God will look at when we must stand naked before His piercing eyes. He will ask us why we chose not to avail ourselves of all the opportunities for His saving and sanctifying grace through His Church, and so deprived ourselves of the Holy Spirit. In fact, by maintaining communion with the Church, “the blood of Jesus Christ [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).
Indeed, beloved, when we stand before “the dread Judgment Seat of Christ” the judgment He renders will only be the ratification of what we have chosen in this life to be and to do. “’Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth My Word,’” says our Lord, “’and believeth in Him that sent Me, hath Everlasting Life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto Life.’” What is Jesus saying except that we already are now experiencing either eternal death or Eternal Life based upon our orientation to the Light or to the darkness? Isn’t that what He has already told Nicodemus back in chapter three of the Gospel? “’He who believes in [the Son of God sent into the world by the Father] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.’” Jesus goes on:
‘And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil [that is, who make evil/darkness the way of their lives] hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
And, then, Jesus concludes with this observation: “’But he who does the Truth comes to the Light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God’” (Jn. 3:18-21).
When we stand before God on the Day of Judgment, everything about our lives – everything we have been living and are living – will be exposed as either darkness or light, lies or truth. And, we will receive death or Life. Have we been hearing the Word of the Son of God, which means have we been obeying it because we believe it, or have we not? We who are dead in sins and trespasses yet have the hope of Life Everlasting now – today – so long as it is still called today (Ep. 2:1-10). Do not pass today by, or better still, do not allow today as the day of God’s grace escape you! “[D]o not receive the grace of God in vain,” warns St. Paul. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cr. 6:1, 2). “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God,” says Sacred Scripture, “but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hb. 3:12-13). Just as the end should influence what we do today, so today determines our end in eternity.
For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Th. 4:13-17).
‘Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth – they that have done good, unto the resurrection of Life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God,
have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
1 Th. 4:13-17