Today is the last Sunday of the year and we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. As we close out the liturgical year our thoughts turn toward the “last things” that stand before us always in our lives. We listen to the parables of judgment and our Lord reminds us through his teaching that one day we will be called to account for our lives in the final judgment. There will be a day of reckoning in which we will be measured and weighed, in which we will pass through fire, in which we stand before Christ stripped of all pretense and pride and answer for the way we have chosen to live our lives. The last things remind us of Heaven and Hell and of the Final Judgment when we will be raised in the body once again to stand before Christ the King, our Judge. It is at this time that justice will be established. Every feeble argument and excuse that we have used in our lifetime for not loving, obeying and fulfilling God’s law and commandment will sound hollow in the face of the Voice of Truth that will resound in our life.
The Catechism teaches us: “Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son.” Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.” (CCC 679) We are reminded of the offering of grace that God makes to us in this life, the grace of forgiveness of our sins, the grace of the Eucharist as the bread of life, the grace of a share in the Divine Life of love, the grace of the sacraments and of God’s Word, so many graces, grace upon grace. “Everything is a grace,” Therese of Lisieux reminds us. Our earthly existence is the time of grace and the time to accept and make use of God’s graces to build a life in Christ. The Final Judgment is the time of justice when we will know and be known by how we have used the gifts and graces that God has given us in this life.
The time of judgment is not so much about our doing as it is about our being. Our works will not justify us if we have not truly allowed God’s grace to change us into the image of Christ, into the image of self-sacrificing love. Jesus warned us from the very first moment of his teaching to, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” This metanoia, this true conversion of heart, is what will be revealed in the final judgment. “Do you love me?”; the question that Jesus posed to Peter is the question that stands before all of us on the day of judgment and this question is one that will be answered by the sum total of our entire lives. Our works will not justify us but will be a witness as to how we have loved the Lord in this life. The gospel parable of the sheep and the goats reminds us that we prove our love for the Lord each day in the way we respond to the needs of others in our lives. We cannot argue that we love God if we have not loved our neighbor through acts of charity, compassion and self-sacrifice.
Anthony Bloom, the metropolitan archbishop of Sourozh, writes that there will be two witnesses that testify and confront us on the day of our judgment, our conscience and the Word of God. Our conscience is the adversary that we must make peace with on the way to the Judge, it is the natural and God-given knowledge of right and wrong that God has placed in our hearts and of which Paul speaks of in his letter to the Romans. Another accuser will be God’s own Word as is said in scripture, “it is not I who judge you but the word which I have spoken”, that word that is truth and life to which our entire being responds and that we have so often carelessly ignored throughout our lives. In our parable today we see that the Judge, Christ the King, does not ask us on the final day about our convictions or religious practices, but more importantly about how we have been human, how we have cared for others in our lives.
Christ will come again as King to establish God’s reign and today is the day for us to prepare for his coming, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Our celebration of the feast of Christ the King and judgment passes into our Advent celebration when we pray fervently, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” When we have lived a life in Christ we look forward to the Day of Judgment as a day of hope and joy, not as a day to fear, for it is the day of our salvation.