THE PARTICULAR JUDGMENT
"Give an account of thy stewardship." Luke xvi. 2.
SYNOPSIS.The thought of judgment fills us with fear. Death comes unexpected and we may be called for judgment when least expected. Leading a good life the proper preparation. I. What account will be exacted from us at the judgment? II. How we should make our preparation for this judgment.
I. There are two judgmentsparticular and general. The particular judgment taking place immediately upon death. An exact account will be demanded of the gifts with which we have been endowed, 1. In nature. 2. In grace. The witnesses of the judgment. If such strict account will be demanded of the gifts and graces, how much more severe will we be judged for sins committed?
II. The judgment takes place in the very moment of death. This thought, and the knowledge of the severity of the judgment, should inspire us with fear and caution us to make preparations. Even the saints dreaded judgment. What must we do to prepare ourselves? Let us lead a good life.
Can we, dear brethren, meditate upon the severity of the divine judgment without being penetrated with the liveliest fear? The days of our life are numbered, and, what is more, we know neither the hour nor the moment when we shall be called before the judgment seat of our eternal judge. At the very moment when we least expect it, when we are least prepared, we may have to render this awful accounting! I assure you, dear brethren, if we ponder over this rightly, we should have good cause to despair, if our religion did not teach us that we may mitigate that moment by leading a life which will animate us with the hope that God will have compassion upon us. Let us be on our guard, dear brethren, that we may not be taken by surprise when that moment comes, like the steward of whom Christ tells us in the Gospel. I will now show you:
I. What we shall have to account for at the judgment.
II. How we should prepare ourselves for this judgment.
We all know, dear brethren, that we shall have to undergo a twofold judgment: One at that great day of wrath, at the end of the world, in the presence of the whole world, when all our actions, the good and the bad, will be revealed before the eyes of all mankind. But before this awful, and for sinners so fatal day, we shall have already undergone another judgment, namely, at the moment of death, immediately after having breathed our last sigh. Man's vocation may be summed us in these words: To live, to die, and to be judged. This is a sure and unalterable law for all men. We are born to die, and we die to be judged, and this judgment will decide for us eternal happiness or eternal misery. The general judgment at which we shall all have to appear, will only be the proclamation of the particular judgment underwent at the hour of our death. You all know, dear brethren, that God has numbered our years, and He has determined which of these years will be our last: the year, the day, the hour, will surely come, after which time will be for us no more. What will then become of the sinner, of the ungodly, who had fondly relied upon a longer life? Their calculations do not avail in that last hour. There will be no turning back, no hope, and no help.
At that moment, my brethrenmark this well, you who do not dread to pass your lives in sinat that moment, when your soul leaves the body, you will be judged. But you will say, we know this well. Yes, but you do not realize it. If you realized it thoroughly, you could not remain in a state in which you might at any moment be cast into hell for all eternity. If you really appreciated this fact, you would not run the risk of so great a misfortune. Remember, the moment will come in which God will place the seal of immortality and eternity upon thy guilt as it will be found at that moment, and this seal will never be removed. O awful moment! so little contemplated, so brief and yet so long, which will pass away with such rapidity, and yet brings with it the awful consequences of an eternity. What will become of us, dear brethren, at that awful moment? We shall, each one of us, have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, there to be judged, and to be asked for an exact account of all the good and the evil which we have done. God will demand an account of all the benefits which we have received, of all the gifts of nature, and of grace. We are held responsible for all these gifts. The gifts of nature concern body and soul. We shall have to give an account of the use we have made of our body. He will ask if you have employed its strength for the service of God, for your neighbor, in honest work, in the giving of alms, and in doing penance. Or if, on the contrary, you have employed your health and your body in the service of the devil. Then He will ask us whether we have misused the faculties of our mind for evil, to learn that which is wrong; whether we have read bad books, associated with ungodly persons, and taught evil to others. Whether we have employed our intellect to deceive others in business, to testify falsely, to revenge ourselves upon others, to revile religion. He will ask us whether we have not misused our gift of speech with words and songs against purity, with slander. He will ask us if we have used the powers of our reason to instruct ourselves in the truths of our Holy Religion, or whether we have made use of all these gifts to draw others into sin. God will ask us if we have made good use of our wealth, by reminding ourselves that we are only stewards of the same, and that everything which we shall have used for a bad purpose will be recorded against us as sins.
Now we come, dear brethren, to another item in this rendering of account which will be still more severe, namely, that concerning grace. God will point out to us the benefits which He has granted us, for instance, in permitting us to be born in the bosom of the Catholic Church, when there are so many others, alas, born outside the fold. He will show us how many years, months, weeks, and days of life He has granted us when we were in sin so that we might repent. We should have been plunged into hell if He had allowed us to die during that time. He will place before our eyes all the good thoughts, the good instincts, and the good desires that He has granted us during our life. So many graces despised! He will remind us of all the instructions which we have been allowed to receive, of all our Confessions and Communions, and the heavenly graces which we received in them. And we shall learn that so many Christians have not received the hundredth part of the graces that were given to us, and yet they sanctified themselves! Dear brethren, what has become of all our graces and blessings, what profit have we derived therefrom? What a sad moment that will be for a Christian who has despised them all, and derived no benefit from them! Is this your case? Listen to St. Gregory, who says: "My friend, consider this cross, and you will see what it cost God to merit life for us." St. Augustine, when reflecting upon the accounting which we would have to give for all graces received, exclaimed: "How unhappy am I, what will become of me, having received so many graces! I am more afraid on account of these graces than on account of sins committed, although they are very numerous!" What shall we say, dear brethren, when Christ reproaches us with our contempt and our misuse of the merits of His most precious blood? "Woe to you, ungrateful sinner!" He will say, "thou unfruitful vine, thou barren tree! What could I have done for thy salvation that I did not do? Did I not have reason to expect that thou wouldst bear good fruit for eternal life? Where are thy good works? Where are thy prayers, which would have rejoiced My heart? Where are thy Confessionsthe Communions which should have caused Me to dwell in thy soul, and which would have compensated Me in a measure for the sufferings which I endured for thy salvation? Where are thy penitential works for the wiping out of past sins? Where are the good results of the many good inspirations accorded thee, good thoughts and desires, and the many opportunities prepared for thee? Where are the Holy Masses through which thou couldst have made satisfaction for thy sins? Depart, wretched soul! thou hast only performed works of unrighteousness to renew My passion and death. Depart from Me! I curse thee for all eternity! Depart! On the day of general judgment I shall proclaim the good thou shouldst have accomplished, but hast not done, and all the graces which I granted thee, but thou hast not used." What terrible reproach! How awful will this account be!
This judgment will take place before three witnesses: before God, who will judge us; our guardian angel, who will present our good works; and Satan, who will reveal everything wicked which we have done during our lives! After they have spoken, God will judge us, and decide our everlasting destiny. How great will be the fear of a poor Christian who awaits his judgment, and whose fate will either be heaven or hell!
If it is so dreadful, then, to give an account of even the graces which God gave us, what will it be when we shall be asked and judged according to our sins? Perhaps you will say for your own consolation that you have not committed such monstrous sins. Perhaps not, in the eyes of the world; but how is it with your secret sins? Alas, how many unchaste thoughts and desires, how many thoughts of hatred, revenge, and envy, have soiled our mind and soul during a life of thirty, forty, or eighty years! How many thoughts of pride, of jealousy, how many desires to injure our neighbor, or to deceive him! And when it comes to sinful acts! When God asks us about certain unchaste actions, and certain shameful deeds, about unworthy Confessions and Communions, about our deceitfulness by which we have injured others!
This judgment will take place in the very moment of deathwe might say, upon the deathbedfor the Apostle clearly states: "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment." (Heb. ix. 27.) No intermission, therefore, between death and judgment: one follows the other one immediately.
Is not this thought sufficient to fill us with fright? And who does not tremble at the thought that God will let nothing pass unexamined, not even the good works, so as to find out if they were really meritorious! Because so many good deeds are performed solely for the sake of the world and out of a desire to be observed and be considered virtuous, therefore so many good actions have no merit in the eyes of God! If even the saints dreaded this moment, and practised long and severe penances, how may we hope that God will have compassion upon us? Cast us not into hell, O Lord! Rather let us suffer any evils that Thou willst send us in this life! Yes, we should have a great sorrow for our sins, and weep over them, like King David, who wept over his sins until his death. We should humble ourselves profoundly before God, by accepting any suffering that God may send us in this life, not only with devout submission, but even with joy, for there is no alternative. We must suffer either in this life or the one to come, where our tears will be useless and our penance without merit. We must never forget that we do not know the day of our death, and that if, unfortunately, we should be overtaken in the state of sin, we should be eternally lost. What, then, shall we do, dear brethren? We must be completely blind if, having pondered on these truths, we do not acknowledge that no man may justly say he is ready to appear before Christ. In view of this certainty, let us take steps to draw nearer to God, let us lead a good and God-fearing life, so as to assure ourselves of a favorable sentence if we should suddenly be called to judgment. How blinded is the sinner! How lamentable is his lot! No, dear brethren, let us no longer continue in our folly. Christ may knock at our door at the moment when we least expect Him. Happy they who have not waited till this moment to make their preparations! This is what I wish you all. Amen.