God Will Judge

The ancient Israelites sang in the Temple that “God will judge the world with justice.” The statement appears in three different Psalms of David. God will justly judge the world.

pantocratorA basic, inescapable conclusion of faith in God. We human beings, endowed as we are with some intelligence, have the capacity to investigate the truth and judge guilt and innocence. But our capacity to do this is limited and imperfect.

Almighty God possesses a perfect capacity to judge according to the truth. He will certainly execute His judgment, at the proper time, which He alone knows. All these are “Rational Monotheism Basics,” so to speak.

When the Messiah came, He offered us a lot more clarity about this. God the Father has appointed His Christ as the divine Judge. Jesus will make the final separation between the saved and the damned.

Christ also enlightened our understanding of the Law that He will apply. The Law of Divine Love. The Law of Love that unites the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, Who all live in their perfect blessedness by living for The Others.

Christ will judge us on how we have forgotten our fallen, selfish selves, loved the Truth, and loved our neighbor—and thereby found our true selves. He will judge us with uncompromising rigor: “When did we ever see you thirsty and not give you something to drink?” “When you despised the least one of My brothers, you accursed.”

St. Paul spoke in Athens to help the Greeks understand all this. We share in Paul’s apostolate, his mission to offer our neighbors as much clarity as possible about the judgment to come. After all, the Lord has revealed as much as He has about the judgment for a reason—namely, to help us human beings prepare ourselves.

scales_of_justiceThe peace of the reconciled Christian soul rests, therefore, on this sublime reality: In Christ, God has revealed both his unfathomable mercy and His uncompromising justice.

To someone whose soul actually rests in the peace of communion with this reality, the peace of communion with Christ—to such a soul, nothing could be more absurd than any suggestion that God is “nice.” Nothing could be more absurd than compromising the truth about God’s rigorous judgment according to the Law of Love, for the sake of supposedly being more evangelical and appealing to “the public.”

When he explained the final judgment to them, St. Paul paid his audience in Athens the compliment of assuming that they could see the facts in front of their faces. The world lurches along, estranged from truth and from justice. That’s reality. The world is not a nice place; innocent people suffer, and the powerful take advantage of the weak for the sake of their empty, fleeting self-indulgences. How could God’s judgment be nice?

So: anyone who preaches about a God Who doesn’t have any plans to settle everything righteously—what kind of non-powerful, non-righteous, non-worthy non-God would that be? How could such preaching of this Mr.-Nice-Guy God have any impact on this screwed-up world?

And what kind of consoling Gospel would it be? If it didn’t involve the assurance that all the injustices we see clearly with our own eyes will be set to rights? No, the Gospel of Christ assures us that all the evil we see will be set right by divine power and divine righteousness. Christ will accomplish this.

Meanwhile, He has provided us with everything we need to make our peace with Him. So that we can face Judgment Day without fear.

No one will ever find peace by pretending that Judgment Day will not come, or that we will endure it easily, without any trouble. But Christ crucified can give us peace, so that we can face His judgment serenely.

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St. Paul’s Areopagus Confidence

areopagusLet’s pause and admire the serene confidence with which St. Paul stood and spoke in the Athenian Areopagus.

Fearless.

Fearless, first of all, because he knew that his speech appealed to something that dwells in the heart of every human being:  the desire for God.

As we read at the beginning of the Catechism…

The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself…This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. Man cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.  (CCC 27)

St. Paul was fearless also because he preached the answer to the question of man.  Man’s desire for God is a question, a question that words cannot adequately express.  God Almighty, Who has a Word more sublime than our human languages, has answered.  The answer is Jesus.

We, too, can stand and bear witness, with the same serene confidence that St. Paul had.  If the Athenians had chosen to stone St. Paul, he was ready.  If they had chosen to embrace him and demand more attention, he was ready.  If they chose to ignore him, he was ready.

St. Paul stood and spoke because he loved.  He loved the unseen God.  He loved the Word of God, Jesus Christ.  And he loved the Athenians, because he loved everybody.  We can love all the Roanokers, and everybody else we know–and stand and bear witness fearlessly, too.

St. Paul’s New Evangelization

St. Paul preaching in the town square

“I alone have escaped to tell you.” The most heartbreaking sentence in the Bible.

Anyone know the context?

The sentence is uttered by messengers arriving to tell Job that all his property has been destroyed and all his family has been killed.

St. Paul speaking in the Areopagus offers us the mirror image of the tragic moments at the beginning of the book of Job.

To whom is St. Paul speaking? To the Athenians? To all the pagan peoples of the ancient Mediterranean? No: He speaks to mankind, to suffering mankind. We could say that he speaks to Job, insofar as Job is every human being who dwells in the shadow of death. And St. Paul’s message to Job teaches us how to advance the New Evangelization.

St. Paul acknowledges: Athenians, pagans, mankind—I see that you are religious. Facts confront you, namely: There is something, rather than nothing. Some force and power beyond our conception set the universe in motion and guides its course. We, intelligent animals—we have a special affinity for this great Almighty Power. We can seek to have a relationship with Him, to praise Him, and even to question Him in an effort to try and understand His mind.

ENGLISH VERSION OF YEAR OF FAITH LOGOOf course, to seek to know and understand the Almighty One can lead to pain, frustration, exhaustion, even despair. Because He is so altogether unknown. The flick of His wrist makes the earth quake and the mountains fall. He stands outside the course of human events, remote, unreachable, full of unknowable counsels and willing altogether mysterious ends.

So, dear inherently religious humans—St. Paul declares—I see into your souls. I see your insatiable yet frustrated religiousness. And I declare to you that something altogether wonderful has occurred. Events have occurred, and I have survived—I have lived—to tell you!

This very same Almighty Power, with whom you so desperately desire to live in harmony, yet don’t know how—Dear People, this God no longer stands outside our world. He does not hold Himself aloof from the course of our struggling lives. To the contrary! In Judea, He Himself became one of us and was born like you and I have been born!

I have lived to see it, and I am here to tell the tale! I have known the friendship of the God-man. I have seen in His face the countenance of the Almighty Father. This Messiah has suffered, He has died, He has risen again, and has ascended on high. He, Jesus of Nazareth, is the final judge of all things, the final arbiter—this meek and mild teacher of peace!

You, dear mankind—you have longings that end only in frustration without these facts. But the facts are real; I’m telling you the truth! The Unknown God has made Himself known, on earth, in Israel—Jesus.