Knowing The Ending by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
I love to read novels. There are times, however, when I give in to the temptation to leaf ahead and see what happens next. Naturally, I run the risk of discovering some key plot twist, i.e. the death of a character that can ultimately ruin the dramatic impact of the story.
On the other hand, there are times when knowing the end of the story can be helpful. In fact, there are times when knowing the end of the story can be critical to assessing our present state of affairs. I am referring, of course, to the story of salvation history.
The 34th week of ordinary Time is also the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is the final Sunday of Ordinary Time and serves as the ending of the Church year. Fittingly enough, the gospel speaks of an ending: the coming of the Son of Man in glory at the end of time. The Gospel passage points out quite clearly that the story of salvation history did not end with the resurrection of Christ or His ascension into heaven. It does not even end with the out pouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It ends when Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, comes again to judge the living and the dead.
The Gospel passage also paints a clear picture of the two possible fates of the human soul: eternal punishment or eternal life. This is not some capricious or random judgment. We find that worthiness of one or the other is based upon the accounting we give of the love we have shown for God and neighbor or the lack thereof. In other words, heaven and hell are but the crowning of the life we live on earth. They begin with what we do or fail to do here and now: "Whatever you did for the least brothers of mine, you did for me. ... What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me."
The Gospel also makes it quite clear that Christ will be the judge, the one to whom we must render that account. We might ask ourselves, who gave Him the right to be our judge? The answer is pretty simple. His father has given Him all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the Lamb who was once slain but now lives, the Lord of the living and the dead, the firstborn of the dead. That gives Him the authority.
Like I said, knowing the end of the story - judgment, eternal life or punishment - should have a significant impact on our present. God's desires and plans for us are not unknown to us. We cannot claim ignorance of them. God is ready to provide whatever grace and assistance we need to obtain the inheritance He has promised us. When we are called from this life, I would imagine - I would hope - that we would want to hear Our Lord address us as His friends and those He readily recognizes as His brothers and sisters. But, to be His friend on that day we must show ourselves to be His friend here and now. Keeping His commandments and cooperating with the graces He gives are the signs of that friendship.
There is nothing more dramatic than knowing our actions or lack thereof have consequences not only in this life but in the life to come. There is nothing more dramatic than knowing that each day we can choose a path of life or death.
In the words of St. Francis de Sales, taken from the Introduction to the Devout Life, "Imaging yourself to be in an open field, alone with your guardian angel. ... Imagine that he shows you high heaven open before you with all its joys. . . and that then he shows you hell lying open beneath you with all its torments. ...Consider that it is strictly true that you stand between heaven and hell and that each of them lies open to receive you according to the choice you make. Consider that the choice of one or the other of them that we make in the world will last eternally in the world to come. ... God, who is prepared to give you hell by His justice or heaven by His mercy, desires with an incomparable desire that you choose heaven."
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