"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The second Coming of Christ

The second Coming of Christ
They shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. LUKE xxi. 27.

I. "From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead." l. Christ has three offices: those of Redeemer, Mediator, and Judge. 2. There are two comings of Christ: the first in lowliness to redeem the world, the second in power to judge the world. 3. There are two judgments: the particular judgment at death, and the general judgment at the end of the world.

II. The general judgment. Last Sunday we explained the circumstances of the general judgment, today we assign the reasons for it: 1. Only at the last day can the total results of good or evil be known. 2. A general judgment will be the means of rectifying the injustices of life and of vindicating the ways of God's providence. 3. By means of a judgment following the resurrection the body will have part in the rewards or punishments of the soul. 4. The sentence pronounced at the general judgment will be a public and solemn ratification of the private sentence at the particular judgment.

III. The particular judgment, 1. This takes place at the moment of death--" It is appointed unto man once to die, and after death, the judgment" (Heb. ix. 27). 2. There is a similarity between the end of the world and the death of the individual: (a) both are certain--"my words shall not pass" (Luke xxi. 33) (b) the time of both is uncertain--"the day and the hour no man knoweth" (Matt. xxiv. 36) ; (c) both are accompanied by temptations and tribulations--"there shall arise false Christs," etc., "the sun shall be darkened," etc. (Matt. xxiv. 24, 29). 3. The similarity between the particular and the general judgments: (a) it is the same person with his whole life who is judged in both cases; (b) the sentence is irrevocable in both cases.

CONCLUSION. l. The importance of frequent reflection on death and of constant preparation by vigilance against temptation and by prayer for perseverance. 2. Preparation for a favorable judgment by judging oneself now, by refraining from judging others, by performing works of charity, etc. (Matt. xxv. 35-46). 3. For the just the thought of the judgment is a consolation, "look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand" (Luke xxi. 28); "Come, Lord Jesus" (Apoc. xxii. 20).

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part I


From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.


Jesus Christ is invested with three eminent offices and functions: those of Redeemer, Patron, and Judge. But as in the preceding Articles it is shown that the human race was redeemed by His passion and death, and as by His ascension into heaven it is manifest that He has undertaken the perpetual advocacy and patronage of our cause, it follows that in this Article we set forth His character as Judge.


The scope and intent of the Article is to declare that on the last day He will judge the whole human race. The Sacred Scriptures inform us that there are two comings of Christ,--the one when He assumed human flesh for our salvation in the womb of a virgin; the other when He shall come at the end of the world to judge mankind. This coming is called in Scripture "the day of the Lord." "The day of the Lord," says the Apostle, "shall come, as a thief in the night"; (1) and our Lord Himself says, "Of that day and hour nobody knoweth."(2) In proof of the last judgment it is enough to adduce the authority of the Apostle: "We must all," says he, "appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil."(3) Sacred Scripture abounds in testimonies to the same effect, which the pastor will meet everywhere throughout the Inspired Volume, (4) and which not only establish the truth of the dogma, but also place it in vivid colors before the eyes of the faithful. And, if from the beginning, the "day of the Lord," on which He was clothed with our flesh, was sighed for by all as the foundation of their hope of deliverance, so also, after the death and ascension of the Son of God, the second "day of the Lord," we should make the object of our most earnest desires, " looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God."(5)


But with a view to the better explanation of this subject the pastor is to distinguish two distinct periods at which every one must appear in the presence of God, to render an account of all his thoughts, words, and actions, and receive sentence accordingly from the mouth of his Judge: the first, when each one departs this life; for then he is instantly placed before the judgment seat of God, where all that he had ever done or spoken or thought during life shall be subjected to the most rigid scrutiny; and this is called the particular judgment: the second, when on the same day and in the same place all men shall stand together, before the tribunal of their judge, that in the presence and hearing of a congregated world each may know his final doom,--an announcement which will constitute no small part of the pain and punishment of the wicked, and of the remuneration and rewards of the just, when the tenor of each man's life shall appear in its true colors.


This is called the general judgment; and it becomes an indispensable duty of the pastor to show why, besides the particular judgment of each individual, a general one should also be passed upon the assembled world.


The first reason is founded on circumstances that must augment the rewards or aggravate the punishments of the dead. Those who depart this life sometimes leave behind them children who imitate their conduct, dependents, followers, and others who admire and advocate the example, the language, the conduct of those on whom they depend and whose example they follow; and as the good or bad influence of example, affecting as it does the conduct of many, is to terminate only with this world, justice demands that in order to form a proper estimate of the good or bad actions of all a general judgment should take place.


Moreover, as the character of the virtuous frequently suffers from misrepresentation, while that of the wicked obtains the commendation of virtue, the justice of God demands that the former recover, in the presence and with the suffrage of a congregated world, the good name of which they had been unjustly deprived before men.


Again, as the good and the bad perform their good and bad actions not without the cooperation of the body, these actions belong also to the body as their instrument. The body, therefore, should participate with the soul in the eternal rewards of virtue or the everlasting punishments of vice; and this can only be accomplished by means of a general resurrection and of a general judgment.


Next, it is important to prove that in prosperity and adversity, which are sometimes the promiscuous lot of the good and of the bad, everything is ordered by an all-wise, all-just, and all- ruling Providence. It is therefore necessary not only that rewards and punishments should await us in the next life, but that they should be awarded by a public and general judgment. Thus they will become better known and will be rendered more conspicuous to all, and in atonement for the querulous murmurings, to which on seeing the wicked abound in wealth and nourish in honors even the Saints themselves, as men, have sometimes given expression, a tribute of praise will be offered by all to the justice and providence of God. "My feet," says the Prophet, "were almost moved, my steps had well nigh slipped, because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the prosperity of sinners"; and a little after: "Behold! these are sinners, and yet abounding in the world, they have obtained riches; and I said, Then have I in vain justified my heart, and washed my hands among the innocent; and I have been scourged all the day, and my chastisement hath been in the morning."(6) This has been the frequent complaint of many, and a general judgment is therefore necessary, lest perhaps men may be tempted to say that God, " walking about the poles of heaven,"(7) regards not the earth. Wisely, therefore, has this truth been made one of the twelve articles of the Christian creed, that should any be tempted to doubt for a moment, their faith may be confirmed by the satisfactory reasons which this doctrine presents to the mind.


Besides, the just should be encouraged by the hope, the wicked appalled by the terror, of a future judgment; that knowing the justice of God the former may not be disheartened, and dreading His eternal judgments the latter may be recalled from the paths of vice. Hence, speaking of the last day, our Lord and Saviour declares that a general judgment will one day take place, and describes the signs of its approach, that seeing them, we may know that the end of the world is at hand.(8) At His ascension also, to console His Apostles, overwhelmed with grief at His departure. He sent Angels, who said to them: " This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen him going into heaven."(9)

1. Thess. v. 2. 2. Matt. xxiv. 36; Mark xiii. 32. 3. 2 Cor. v. 10.
4. I Kings ii. 10; Isaias ii. 12, 1Q; xiii. 9; Jerem. xxx. 23; Dan. vii. 9; Joel ii. i.
5. Tit. ii. 13.
6. Ps. Ixxii. 2, 3, 12-14.
7. Job xxii. 14.
8. Matt. xxiv. 33.
9. Acts i. II.

Sermons The Second Coming of Christ
by the Rev. F. X. McGowan, O.S.A.
There is probably no truth in the whole body of Christian doctrine that has excited more strongly the hopes and fears of humanity than the doctrine of the First and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ on earth. His First Coming was eagerly watched for by His chosen people, and it was fraught with all the blessed confidence that the long night of four thousand years had fostered in men's souls. When, however, it dawned upon a benighted world, it brought reprobation to the Jewish people. But it cast light upon outside nations, and it was weighted down with the grace of redemption to the Gentiles. " Blindness in part hath happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in " (Rom. xi. 25).

The Second Coming of Christ on earth bears with it a significance even as important as His First Coming. For men have reason to fear that when their conduct shall be weighed in the scale of Divine justice, they will be held to a severe account, and will incur the wrath of the eternal Judge.

Ever since the days of Christ opposition has been manifested against the acceptance of the doctrine which teaches a future general judgment. The carnal-minded Jews could not brook such an idea, because Jesus proclaimed Himself the Judge. The early heretics emulated the pagans in deriding what appeared to them as an impossible event. The same repugnance is to be found in our late days. Men laugh to scorn the awful judgments of God.

We might classify the opponents of the doctrine of a general judgment as "the proud infidel," "the sensual epicurean," and "the earthly materialist."

The proud infidel is so self-sufficient that he will not admit a personal God, because he wants to deify his own intelligence; or if he does not exclude the idea of a God, he either identifies God with himself or makes God the universe around him. To the infidel the general judgment is a fable, a myth.

The sensual epicurean is as equally opposed to a general judgment as the selfwilled infidel. His god is his belly, according to St. Paul, and he lives simply to pander to passion and to satisfy appetite. He desires no general judgment, because this lower life is his elysium.

The earthly materialist is so wedded to the world and its interests that he cannot perceive anything beyond this life. He worships Mammon, and, according to the Gospel, he cannot serve God. The materialist is in strong evidence in our American life. He never thinks of God and His judgments. His time is wholly occupied with gigantic speculations, with vast projects for self- aggrandizement. In practice, the materialist seems not to believe in a last accounting day when Christ shall judge the hearts of men.

But God in His goodness has preserved the knowledge of judgment day in the deposit of faith which He bequeathed to His spouse, Mother Church, and His revelation lives and throbs in Catholic hearts despite the infidelity of men and the perversity of nations. Let us glance at:

I. The certainty of a General Judgment.

II. The reason for a General Judgment.

I. When we say the Apostles' Creed we confess the event of Judgment day, on which Jesus Christ shall "judge the living and the dead." In the Nicene Creed we acknowledge that Jesus Christ "ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and is to come again with glory to judge the living and the dead." In the Athanasian Creed we say: "At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works."

The certainty of a General Judgment is proved: 1. From the Law of Nature; 2. From the Old Testament; 3. From the New Testament.

1. That there will be at the end of time a general judgment over which Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, will preside was well known from the earliest ages. The judgment, with its awful sentence, pronounced in Eden, was a type and a reminder of the day of the Lord when all nations and the world of all ages shall be summoned before the tribunal of Christ. This truth is indicated in many passages of the Old Testament, but these were badly understood or entirely ignored by the Jewish people. A full knowledge of what both patriarch and prophet meant in their deliverances on this subject was reserved for the Christianity of later days. Before the Written Law was given to Israel, the patriarchs both saw in spirit and taught in word the event of the universal judgment. It was announced by the patriarch Enoch, the seventh from Adam: " Behold," he said, " behold the Lord coming with thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to reprove all the ungodly for all the works of their ungodliness, whereby they have done ungodly, and of all the hard things, which ungodly sinners have spoken against God." Here direct reference is made not only to the Lord's judgment, but also to the majesty and pomp which will attend it. Job, who was a Gentile, and who lived in the period between Abraham and Moses, thus being altogether uninfluenced by the legislation of the latter, testifies also to the universal judgment of the Lord. "What shall I do when God shall rise to judge? and when he shall examine, what shall I answer him?" (Job xxxi. 14). Again he says: " Who will grant me this that thou mayst protect me in hell, and hide me till thy wrath pass?" (Job xiv. 13). We see that before the Written Law had been promulgated, the knowledge of the Day of Judgment was apparent among the peoples of the earth. It may have had a connection with the spiritual promise of the Messiah. The patriarchs certainly knew of it, and we shall see how later the prophets spoke of it in terms that are distinct and even elaborate.

2. The testimonies relative to the General Judgment are numerous in the Old Testament, and therefore we are permitted the liberty of selection. In the spirit of prophecy Anna, the mother of Samuel, said: "The adversaries of the Lord shall fear him, and upon them shall be thunder in the heavens: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, and he shall give empire to his king, and shall exalt the horn of his Christ" (I Kings ii. 10). Here we have a direct allusion to the judgment day of the Lord, with its fear and trembling and the exaltation of Jesus Christ, who shall triumph over His enemies in the majestic environment of the day of His justice. Isaias, whose language and style are most elevated, also paints in glowing colors the dread conditions of judgment day: "Enter thou into the rock, and hide thee in the pit from the face of the fear of the Lord and from the glory of his majesty. The lofty eyes of man are humbled . . . and the Lord alone shall be exalted on that day. Because the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and highminded, and upon every one that is arrogant, and he shall be humbled" (Is. ii. 10-13). Again, this prophet calls the day of the Lord " a cruel day, and full of indignation and of wrath and fury, to lay the land desolate and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it" (Is. xiii. 9).

The prophet Ezechiel foretells the harrowing scene of the universal judgment: "The end is come, the end is come upon the four quarters of the land.... I will send my wrath upon thee, and I will judge thee according to thy ways; and I will set all thy abominations against thee" (vii. 2, 3). The prophets Joel (ch. ii.), Malachias (ch. iii), and the wise man (Wisd. i. 5) make use of similar language; they portray judgment day as a day full of anguish; they call it a day of wrath, of distress, of sorrow and pining, a day of darkness, on which, as it was shown to Daniel in a vision, the four kingdoms typified by the four animals shall be destroyed, wiped out in a solemn manner, and transferred to the saints of the Most High, who will reign forever and who will command the homage of all earthly kings (Daniel vii).

3. This truth revealed to the patriarchs in the law of nature and to the prophets in the written law has been communicated to us in the law of grace by our Blessed Saviour Himself. He has particularized the meaning of this important event. He spoke to unwilling ears when He announced the day of His Second Coming to judge mankind; the Jews willfully misunderstood Him and they maliciously corrupted Scripture to persevere in their blindness. We who have been born of the New Covenant acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the true God and true man, and we know that though heaven and earth may pass away, His words shall not pass away (Matt. xxiv. 35). "The Son of man," He declares, "shall come in the glory of his Father with his Angels: and then will he render to every man according to his works" (Matt. xvi. 27). Again, He warns us: "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" (Matt. xxiv. 30). What a solemn, impressive spectacle! "When the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty: and all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats" (Matt. xxv. 31-32). We may not know the exact day when the Lord shall come to judge mankind, but we know the issue of that day: the Lord will call His elect to everlasting happiness, and He will send unhappy reprobates to never-ending misery.

II. God does not demand of us that we serve, love, and obey Him without giving us forcible reasons for so doing. The holy Fathers give many reasons for the necessity of a General Judgment. We select four principal ones that will enlighten us as to God's dispensation regarding this solemn event.

I. One of the reasons given by the Fathers of the Church for the General Judgment is to show with what justice Jesus Christ rewards the good and punishes the wicked in the particular judgment. We may remark here that the Saviour is in no way bound to justify His conduct before His subjects. He is master absolute, and we are in His hands, as says the Apostle, like clay in the potter's hands (Rom. ix. 21). It is only through pure condescension on His part that He will make known to us the motives that have led Him to pronounce sentence on mortals as He has done. He will expose these reasons in such a just and intelligent way that the reprobate will acknowledge the justice of their condemnation. He will convince all that He has not wounded justice in the punishment of the wicked, nor overpassed the limit of equitable generosity in the reward of the righteous.

2. Another reason for the General Judgment is to make known the means of salvation which have been offered to every one of us in particular, and the manner in which we have employed them. Let us look over our past lives and consider the graces which we have received: graces which were common to the parish in which we lived, graces which were entirely personal, given solely for our benefit. Review in thought the sermons and instructions to which we have listened and the salutary counsel which we have received from God's ministers in the tribunal of Penance. Think how often conscience has upbraided us and placed before our frightened gaze the picture of unrepentant death, and how often, too, we were so moved that we cried out: " Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. vi. 2). God has threatened, caressed, invited, urged, implored, and chastised us. The day of judgment will disclose our indifference towards grace, our actual abuse of grace, even our rejection of grace.

3. A further reason for a General Judgment is to make a solemn reparation to souls unjustly oppressed and a solemn proclamation of the good works of the righteous. On earth, the good are mingled with the wicked, and their good deeds, for many causes, are never viewed in an impartial light. They are persecuted by the wicked, and the latter seem to prosper while the former endure adversity. God will right all these wrongs on judgment day, and the wicked who received their reward on earth will be banished from the kingdom of heaven, while the good shall have as their eternal portion happiness without end.

4. The fourth reason we adduce for the holding of the Last Judgment is to confound the reprobate with their sins and crimes. What will be the confusion of the wicked when they shall see that they could have merited eternal felicity, but lost it by deliberate, willful malice and deception! All their sins will be disclosed; their hypocrisy, deceit, and rashness laid bare as clear as the noontide's sun.

Let us anticipate this "great day of the Lord" by treasuring up merit in heaven. The judgment of God is a terrible thought. It has frightened even the saintliest souls. St. Jerome could do nothing--work, write, or pray--without imagining that he heard the voice of the trumpet and the angel saying, " Arise, ye dead, and come to Judgment." St. Augustine confessed that it was the fear of God's judgment that deterred him from committing many sins.

We should make the judgment day of the Lord the burden of our daily thought. If we fail to catch its meaning and to be moved by its awful conditions, we shall become in God's sight only maimed and broken men, struggling desperately with issues that must determine the future. Let us wring from its reflection the secret of better and holier lives. Let us learn from it the lesson of shaping our souls to a profitable newness of life.

The Particular Judgment
by the Rev. P. Hehel, S.J.

Taking into contemplation today the particular judgment, let us ask:

I. When shall this particular judgment take place?
II. Where shall it be held?
I. We must know before all that there will be a twofold judgment-- a particular and a general judgment. God will hold for every man a particular or secret judgment. This is the teaching of the Apostle, as well as the teaching of the holy Fathers. St. Thomas says clearly, " Besides the particular judgment, which takes place directly after the death of every man, there will also be a general judgment." And again: " As soon as the soul leaves the human body, it is irrevocably assigned to an abiding place. It receives its judgment--either for life or for death, according to its works." All its thoughts, words, and actions during life will be judged in accordance with the way they presented themselves to God at the moment when they happened. Consequently, this particular judgment takes place at the time when we depart from this life, at the very moment when the soul is separated from the body. "It is a most reasonable and wholesome belief," writes St. Augustine, "that the souls are judged at the time when they are separated from their bodies, before they come to that judgment by which they will be judged again, after they have been reunited with their former bodies." To prove this, the same holy father relates the parable from the Gospel, in which Christ tells of the rich Dives and the poor Lazarus. The Scripture says of these two, that the rich man, as soon as he died, was thrown into hell, while the pious Lazarus was, after his death, borne by the angels into the bosom of Abraham. From this St. Augustine draws the conclusion, that undoubtedly it cannot depend upon the mere will of man after death whether he shall go to heaven--if this were so they would all want to go there--and it is just as reasonable that nobody would, of his own free will, go into hell and subject himself to the thraldom of the devil. If, then, the rich Dives was thrown into hell immediately after death and the pious Lazarus was taken to heaven, it follows, necessarily, that immediately after death the soul of every man will be judged in particular, and after this judgment be assigned either to heaven or to hell. If this judgment was postponed until the last day or the day of the general judgment, then on the one hand the just souls would be left in unceasing anxiety, not knowing whether they would pass the judgment, and on the other hand the godless would still be left in the hope of being saved. Therefore, for a long time there would be no difference between the two; both would linger between fear and hope, as neither of them would be sure whether they were to be saved or lost. And this is contrary to the justice of God, who cannot allow those who have offended Him to be treated the same as those who have served Him.

Therefore, it is certain that at the moment of our death our soul will be judged in accordance with our merits, judged for all eternity. Eternal life or eternal death will be the unalterable decision. Oh, what a terrible moment, upon which the whole of eternity depends! Who would not quake and tremble at this and keep it unceasingly before his mind, as no one can tell the day or hour of his death, and therefore does not know how soon he may be called before this judgment. Therefore our future judge admonishes us kind-heartedly and cordially, when He says, "Watch ye therefore, for you know not when the Lord of the house cometh: at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning" (Mark xiii. 35). So much of the time when this particular judgment will take place.

II. As regards the place where this judgment shall be passed, we must not think that the souls are carried up to heaven and there placed before the throne of God. No, a stained soul will never, in all eternity, have the happiness of feeling even for one moment the delights of heavenly joys; each soul will receive its judgment at the same place where the body happened to be at the time of death, be it on water or on land, in bed or in the street, on the mountain or in the valley, in the fields or in the house. For God is everywhere. For this reason can He, without calling the soul into heaven or having to descend Himself from heaven, pronounce His judgment over each one for eternal life or death at the place where it became separated from the body and make the soul cognizant of such judgment.

At this judgment Jesus Christ shall appear as Judge, the soul as the accused, the angel who was its guardian as advocate, and the devil as accuser. The latter will bring forward everything that the soul had committed during its life on earth in thought, word, or deed against God, against itself and against its neighbors, either in intent or in reality. He will--and this should be borne well in mind--bring forward not only the evil which has been committed, but also the good deeds which the soul might have done and which it left undone or did badly. When St. Charles Borromeo was on his death-bed, he said to the priest who attended him, "Reverend brother, I am afraid to appear before the judgment more on account of the good which I have left undone than the evil I have done." And yet, what a pious and holy life had Borromeo led! How many good deeds this man had done during his whole life! Remember, often, that you will be accused by the devil and condemned by Christ not only for sins committed, but also for good deeds omitted.

Against this accuser there is given to each soul an advocate, that angel, namely, who was its true companion and guardian during its pilgrimage through life. He on his side will also bring forward; everything good the soul has done. Every good thought, every sigh, breath, or step, which was done with a pure intention for the love of God or our neighbor will be recorded. He will try to cover the imperfections of these works with the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, and will, to frustrate the efforts of the accuser and move the judge to mercy, remind the latter of the most precious blood which He has shed for each accused soul.

The witnesses at this judgment will be the clear and unerring perception which each soul will have in the most perfect degree. As clear as the sun will appear before its eyes the actions of a lifetime. All covering will be withdrawn and the soul will see all its words, its works and thoughts, its good and evil deeds' in their true light as they appeared in the eyes of God. It will see, whether it is rich in merits or poor, whether it is worthy of heaven or deserving of hell. In this clear self-recognition one's own conscience will give testimony either for or against, and convicted by its own conscience, the soul will not be able to offer excuses but will make a most complete confession. Thereupon, the Judge, who is none else than He who was our Redeemer, will by virtue of His Divine power, His omniscience and justice, render without delay the irrevocable sentence, which will be life or death for all eternity. If we are declared as blessed, we shall also be deemed worthy of heaven on the second and general judgment day; but if the verdict decrees our eternal perdition, we shall receive the same sentence at the last judgment.

"Oh, how dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God." And with each minute this terrible moment comes nearer and nearer. Every minute may bring us the verdict, "Eternal life" or "Eternal death." For we do not know whether we shall not be in the next moment a prey of death. With great earnestness St. James reminds us, therefore, "Behold the judge standeth before the door" (James v. 9).

Yes, my dear friends, He stands before our door, before your door, and before my door! As soon as he enters, the time of activity is passed and He demands an accounting of our lives. What will be our fate?

In conclusion, I will mention to you three thoughts of the holy abbot Elias to ponder over. He used to say: "There are three thing's I am afraid of. The first is when my soul will separate from my body; the second, when I shall have to appear before God my Judge; and the third, when judgment will be passed on me." Remember well these three points. He who will think over them several times a day will lose all desire to do evil.