“The Last Judgment” by Raphael Coxie (circa 1540-1616), oil on panel, painted about 1588 or 1589, housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/PUBLIC DOMAIN

Spiritual Life

We need to live like we’re always ready to die

By Deacon Roger Filips

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk 21:36).

We are now about to begin the Advent season, when we prepare for the first coming of Jesus as a baby. So why is the Church giving us readings about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ? One thing is for sure: We do not think enough about the end of time and Jesus coming back to judge us. 

We have never experienced the second coming of Christ, so we assume it will never happen in our lifetimes. We have no assurance of that. When it does happen, it will catch people by surprise. Jesus is tells us it will happen, and it will be like nothing we can even imagine.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that when we die, we will be judged according to our relationship with God. This is called the particular judgment, when God will make our relationship with him permanent. If we are in perfect relationship with him, we will be joined to him in heaven. If we have an imperfect relationship, we get to fix that in purgatory. If we have no relationship at all, we will go to hell.

However, we often forget that there will also be the general or last judgment, which will happen at the second coming. Our bodies will be resurrected, and our souls will be reunited with them. The bodies of the elect will be perfected and glorified. Then we will see how the good and the bad we did on earth affected everyone else. We will see the big eternal picture clearly.

Are we nearing the end times, the second coming, the New Jerusalem? You must judge that for yourselves. But things do seem to be spinning out of control down here, and the King may have to come back to set things right.

Meanwhile, the solution to sin is not a new president or a new program or a new pope. Ours is a spiritual battle against the enemy, which is everything that leads us to sin. The only way to fight a spiritual battle is with greater holiness. The easiest sins to conquer are those festering in our own souls. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “The soldier of Christ must begin with victory over himself.” Also, Cardinal Robert Sarah says, “The Church needs profound reform, and this will happen through our conversion.”

We need to live so that we are always ready. Repent and convert. Develop your friendship with the Lord, who will judge you. That is good advice any day because accidents and disease can bring the end for any one of us today. Even teenagers who think they will live forever can die unexpectedly.

We need to prepare. We can buy a book, join a Bible study, sign up for a retreat, pray a Rosary, or add a new prayer discipline. Use this Advent to prepare. Prepare for both the first coming of Jesus at Christmas, and the second coming of Jesus on judgement day this Advent. 

The best way to prepare for Jesus’ return is to let him make his home in your heart. In your prayer time, try to be open to the surprising ways he may want to speak to you – not just through his word, but through the quiet voice of the spirit, or through the actions and words of people around you. Be open to the interruptions in your day that come to you. Unexpected requests from relatives, friends or co-workers might be Jesus giving you an opportunity to serve him. You don’t have to wait until the end of the world to meet him; he is knocking at your door right now.

I give you this final challenge. If there is a God, and you were made to be in relationship with him, and that relationship was ruined by sin, and he really did sacrifice his Son to reconcile you to himself and become your friend, then what is your response? What are you going to do about it? Ponder that this Advent season.

Deacon Roger Filips was ordained for the archdiocese in 2017 and is assigned to Holy Trinity Parish in Hartington. He is the author of a forthcoming book, “Pearls of the Universal Church: The Catholic Faith in a Nutshell.”

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