Friday, December 20, 2013

To be open to Jesus requires self-judgment

Back on 11 December, during his weekly Wednesday audience, Pope Francis delivered his final catechesis on the Creed with a reflection on the statement, "I believe in eternal life." Befitting Advent, he narrowed this down further to speaking about the Last, or Final, Judgment. According to the ancient teaching of the Church, taken directly from the words of our Lord Himself, this Final, or General, Judgment will occur when Christ returns in glory "to judge the living and the dead." This will be the time of the resurrection. As the Holy Father noted, it is difficult not to contemplate this day with fear.

Nonetheless, as Christians, it is a day to be eagerly awaited, excitedly anticipated, not feared. Really, for us, now, while Advent is certainly about celebrating and solemnly commemorating the Incarnation of the Son of God more than 2,000 years ago, it is more about awakening in ourselves the hope that this same Jesus will return in glory, to revivify living in the awareness of the end for which we are created, redeemed, and are, even now, striving to attain, namely union with God.

It should not be a day that Christians think about fearfully. Pope Francis noted,
the testimony of the first Christian communities resounds ever so evocatively. In fact, they usually accompanied the celebrations and prayers with the acclamation Maranatha, an expression composed of two Aramaic words which, according to how they are pronounced, may be understood as a supplication: “Come, Lord!”, or as a certainty nourished by faith: “Yes, the Lord is coming, the Lord is near”. The whole of Christian revelation culminates in this exclamation, at the conclusion of the marvellous contemplation which is offered to us by John in Revelation (cf. 22:20). In that case, it is the Church as bride who, on behalf of all humanity and as its first fruits, addresses herself to Christ her Bridegroom, looking forward to be enfolded in his embrace: Jesus’ embrace, which is the fullness of life and the fullness of love
Christ the Judge, Chapel of San Brizio in Orvieto, Italy

Referring back to our present striving to fulfill the very end for which we exist, the realization of our destiny, and our need to awake from our slumber and live sub specie aeternatatis, the Pontiff went on to say something that all of us need to hear:
this final judgement is already in progress, it begins now over the course of our lives. Thus judgement is pronounced at every moment of life, as it sums up our faith in the salvation which is present and active in Christ, or of our unbelief, whereby we close in upon ourselves. But if we close ourselves to the love of Jesus, we condemn ourselves. Salvation is to open oneself to Jesus, it is he who saves us. If we are sinners — and we all are — we ask him for forgiveness and if we go to him with the desire to be good, the Lord forgives us. But for this we must open ourselves to Jesus’ love, which is stronger than all else. Jesus’ love is great, Jesus’ love is merciful, Jesus’ love forgives; but you have to open yourself and to open oneself means to repent, to accuse oneself of the things that are not good and which we have done. The Lord Jesus gave himself and he continues to give himself to us, in order to fill us with all of the mercy and grace of the Father. We then, in a certain sense, can become judges of ourselves, by condemning ourselves to exclusion from communion with God and with the brethren. We must not grow weary, then, of keeping watch over our thoughts and our attitudes, in order that we may be given even now a foretaste of the warmth and splendour of God’s Face — and this will be beautiful — which in eternal life we shall contemplate in all its fullness
The Lord is coming, make straight His path. Or, put another way, Are you ready? There are still some days left in Advent. So, if you've been running around, caught up in the craziness, perhaps this weekend you can slow down, take a breath, be quiet and do something as simple as meditatively pray the Joyful Mysteries of Rosary, looking up and reading the Scriptural passages in St. Luke's Gospel that pertain to each Mystery and, above all, focusing on the fruits of these Mysteries (humility, love of neighbor, poverty, obedience, and the joy of finding Jesus). Most importantly, examine your conscience and go to confession.

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