Second Coming of Christ, Final Judgment 2017
Updated: May 24, 2018
"Et iterum venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos, cuius regni non erit finis” we affirm in the Nicene Creed each Sunday and solemnity.
The Gospel provides us with a description of the end of the world and the second coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead. We profess our belief in this truth when we recite the Creed, “…and He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.” This last Sunday of the liturgical year fittingly reminds us that man’s life on earth will come to an end; that time itself presses to its end.
Many times in the Gospels our Lord frequently warns of this: “The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then will render to every man according to His works.” Mt. 24:30. [Contrary to Luther, we will be judged by our works, what we’ve done and failed to do. Works are the fruit of faith. “Faith without works is dead.”
It is prophesied in the Book of Daniel: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven. And then shall all tribes of the earth mourn: and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty.” According the Fathers of the Church, the sign of the Son of Man is the Cross.
Alphonsus Liguori [in one of his many meditations on the Last Things] tells us that when Christ comes to judge us, we will see Him with the sign of his Cross, as the prophet Isaiah foretold 500 years before: “They will look upon him whom they have pierced.” His glorious wounds will be a great consolation to the just, but a terror for the wicked, for those who have died in their sins for they will be the accusation of the shameful ingratitude for all that Jesus suffered and died for us.
The Cross, now the fountain of mercy, will then also be the seat of judgment.
[Optional] St.Paul also speaks often of the Second Coming, the Final Judgment, in his letter to the Philippians: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Phil.2:9-11] In the end even those who deliberately refused to believe in His name, who profaned and blasphemed that name will be forced to kneel in utter shame and defeat at its very sound.
Second Coming and Final Judgment
Why will Christ come again at the end of time? There are many reasons, but paramount is to complete the work of his Redemption; to make it abundantly clear to everyone, even to unbelievers the victory he won for us on the Cross over the “Prince of this world”; over sin and death. His first coming was in hiddenness and humility—the cave at Bethlehem; the shame, and ignominy, the apparent failure of the Cross. His second coming will be in the full panoply of his power and glory with all the angels and saints of heaven. There will be no mistaking it.
There is a particular judgment which occurs immediately after death, but then there is a final Judgment because all the effects of a persons goodness have not be finally tolled, nor all the evil effects of his evil-doing. Everyone now will see it, and as it were in an instant. Some hold that we will see clearly not only the state of our own consciences but the conscience of everyone else. “He will cast down the mighty from their throne, and shall raise up the lowly”, as our Lady prays in her Magnificat.
In vain, as we hear in the Book of Revelation, will the wicked cry out to the rocks to fall on them, to the mountains to cover them, to the earth to open and swallow them up [Rev.] Extinction—simply going out of existence—will seem a boon in comparison to the everlasting torments of hell, a death without dying, where the fire is never quenched and the worm dyeth not. As our Lady proclaims in her Magnificat, “He will cast down the mighty from their thrones and will lift up the lowly. The hungry he will fill with good things while the rich he will send away empty.”
When will this happen?
Both readings from the Old and New Testament foretell a period of great suffering which will mark the end of the present world, before the second coming of Christ.
The prophet Daniel: “There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence.”
In the Gospel for today Our Lord warns his disciples of certain cosmic disasters: “In those days, after that time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
In other places the Scriptures provide some signs that the end is near: besides natural disasters, wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, days of darkness
Other signs include: the extraordinary suddenness in which this will occur; the Gospel will have been preached to the ends of the earth. [With the advent of mass social media is this fast approaching?] Also, many of the Jews, the people of the Covenant will have accepted Christ as their Savior, their Lord and God. [Already there are groups forming: Jews for Jesus, Messianic Christian communities made up mostly of former Jews.] And also the great apostasy, a falling away from the true Faith prompted by the appearance and the confusion sowed by the Anti-Christ who will be in league with the “Prince of Darkness”–all of which remains subject for another homily. It is this final apostasy to which our Lord refers, “When the Son of Man returns will he find any faith on the face of the earth?”
There will be many trials and sufferings at that last hour, and these will serve as a last call for the conversion of sinners and the final purification of the elect, the Just, the chosen.
As to just when, Our Lord goes on to admit, that no one will know exactly when this will come to pass: “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.” No human intellect knows just when this will happen. It is not revealed even to Jesus in his human intellect, as man; but as God, in his divine intellect he surely knows.
Thinking of Eternity
When you are young you hardly ever think of death, for youth is that time when we think we are going to live forever. When you get older, you think of it more. I think of it often, not so much with fear or dread but with an intense curiosity: what will it be like; what is heaven like; will I finally be united with all those whom I have loved and lost in this life—my parents, grandparents, friends; what do the saints see; what do they do in heaven; how do they move about; do they see us etc.? Although there are some things we can know about heaven, there is much that lies hidden from us. I suspect the reality is so powerful and overwhelming that in this life we would not be able to understand it, for it is beyond anything we have experienced here. St. Paul puts it this way: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man to understand the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” [1 Cor.2:9]
Two things are most certain: someday, I will draw my last breath, and “after death comes the judgment.” How will we stand before God at that moment? An eternity of happiness or misery will depend on the state of our soul at that last moment. Will I die in the State of Sanctifying Grace or will I die unrepentant in my sins?
This is not to engage in morbid thinking.
Even the pagan Stoics, learned philosophers before Christ during the time of the Roman emperors knew that if we don’t think about our death, we will never know how to live. “Cogita mori ut discas vivere”. Think about death and you will know how to live. In fact, to evade or escape, to deny the fact of our mortality is often the hidden motivation for most sins.
Shakespeare in Julius Caesar tells us the effect of this: “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant taste of death but once.”
That is why in ancient Rome whenever a conquering general returned to Rome in public triumph, a slave rode in the chariot with him and, while the cheers of the adoring crowd rang out, and flowers were strewn along his path, the world literally at his feet, the slave would keep whispering in the hero’s ear: memento mori!
A note of realism amid the fantasy of vainglory. [Carthusian monks—the most austere order of hermits in the Church—when the permitted to speak would and still do greet each other in the same way, “Frater, memento mori.”] You would be hard pressed to find more serene, peaceful, emotionally balanced and happier people!
On this last Sunday of the liturgical the Scripture is telling us that everything which happens in time, in the course of our lives, in the movement of history—all of that is but a preparation for the return of Christ either at the end of time when he comes in his glory; or when he comes in time for us individually when the hour glass of our lives has run its course.
Everything in our Christian is a preparation for this. When we were baptized we were given a passport to heaven. When we receive the sacraments, especially Holy Communion, we are given nourishment and strength for that journey. Our prayers and good works gain us merit, spiritual capital to be used and spent as expenses for the journey. The sound teaching of the Church are valuable traveling instructions, how to stay on course and not lose our way. The rules of the road to heaven, the regulations for travel are the Ten Commandments, not impossible or unreasonable, but the map, the guide posts which in the end will give us well-being, happiness, peace with ourselves and others, but here and surely hereafter.
How our heavenly Father desires we come to him and find our real eternal home. How Jesus his eternal Son desires to be with us every step of the way, on our journey; how the Holy Spirit desires to give us the wisdom, the understanding, the counsel to know where we are going, the courage never to loose heart.
In times past the Mass, ever since the fourth century, was offered facing the East, the direction in which Jesus would come again, with the people behind the priest, as though leading the pilgrim people of God; or like a huge army marching forward to meet the Lord when he comes again.
Each and every devout and worthy Holy Communion is an intimate encounter with Jesus. It is also a dress rehearsal when we will see him no longer on the veil of sacramental signs, no longer under the outward appearances of bread and wine, but face to face in the Beatific Vision. As the early Christians were accustomed to cry out in the midst of trial and persecution: “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus. Let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
 We shall see the whole work of Creation and the Redemption, and we will understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. It will reveal God’s justice over the many injustices committed against Him. Vainly will the wicked cry out to the rocks to fall on them or the earth to swallow them up. He will topple the mighty from their thrones and the rich he will send away empty. Extinction—simply going out of existence—will seem a boon in comparison to the everlasting torments of hell, a death without dying, where the fire is never quenched and the worm dyeth no