All through the Old Testament, there are many stories of great figures who, as they see their death approaching, gather their children or their followers to give some final words of advice. In the same way, before He died, Jesus gathered His disciples and delivered His final teaching on the future, instructing them how to live in the midst of political and natural disasters.
Jesus delivers the bad news first: people will be betrayed .. there will be wars .. earthquakes .. famines .. and other terrible signs. However, He looks beyond suffering and persecution to a future of peace with God.
We live in an age of great uncertainty: the future never looks too secure. The only sure thing we can hold on to is the word of God.
The Word is – has to be – enough for us !
In the creed which we recite today, we pray “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end … … I look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” These are the very beliefs we profess in our Sunday readings. We believe that Jesus will come again in glory, and the dead will be raised to life. Part of our belief is also that we shall be judged according to the manner in which we’ve lived. And that can instil a bit of trepidation and fear in us! We trust in a loving and compassionate God, and we can believe that through our good actions and our faith, we’ll be prepared to meet God at death.
Traditional teaching of the Church tells us that we undergo two judgements: our own personal judgement at the moment when our soul leaves our body, and the last judgement at the end of time, when all peoples will be gathered together to witness God’s justice. When we appear before God, it’s sometimes said that we judge ourselves – we know immediately from our way of life on earth whether or not we deserve to be with God for all eternity. It’s also said that the greatest pain after death is not the punishment of hellfire, but the fact that, having seen God at our judgement (the beatific vision), we shall never see Him again, and we’ll realise just what we’ve lost for all eternity.
The purpose of the General Judgement is to show God’s justice – how some people seemed to have everything in this life, and others, who deserved so much, received nothing in the world’s’s eyes – a sort of public evening-up process.