Last weekend I spent a few moments preaching about death and the christian perspective on death. See previous post if interested here. So this weekend I want to spend a few moments preaching about what awaits us after death.
There are many folks who have had near death experiences. I'm sure there is some validity to their experiences. But they almost die, they don't actually die. What happens when we die die?
First a reflection on freedom. Freedom is a big deal for us. We talk about it, march for it and because of it, and we are willing to fight and die for keeping it. Especially as US Citizens we boast many freedoms. We have freedom of press which we love even if we don't like what is being printed. We have freedom of speech again even if we disagree with what is being said. We have freedom to assemble and petition even if we disavow the protest. We have freedom of religion. We have the freedom to carry a gun, to own property, to live and travel where we want. These are important and essential to our lifestyle.
There is one freedom that has deep and lasting impact on matters of what happens after death. This is our moral freedom. We have been created to freely choose to become who God created us to be or to separate ourselves from that reality based on the choices and decisions we make in the here and now.
In this freedom we can understand particular judgment.
After death we will stand before Christ, face to face. We will peer into truth himself. In that moment we will discover who we are; we will find out what we have made ourselves to be based on the decisions and choices we have made.
Judgment is not vengeance from with out. God is not going to force anything upon us. Rather, he will recognize who we have chosen to become based on the life of faith we have lived.
Particular judgment reminds us of our true dignity. We have an intellect, will, and freedom, which means we can shape our destiny. We have some say in the matter. God has placed the ball in our court.
In particular judgment, our fundamental orientation in life whether it be toward God or away from God will be laid bare. In all the pathways of life we shall see clearly, whether we fumbled after God, valid no matter the wrong turns we have taken or we have decisively closed ourself to God, all will come to the light.
In that moment our attitude to God and neighbor shall disclose either our acceptance of Grace and divine love or our rejection. God will let us be who we have made ourselves to be.
Here is what a few scripture passages say about judgment:
1 corn 4:5 He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and manifest the motives of the heart so all receive praise from God. (not only our choices will be revealed but also our motives behind them)
2 corn 5:10 Each will stand before the judgment seat of God an drive an accounting of all that has been done in the body whether good or evil. (faith is not just a spiritual reality but physical reality as well. What we do in the body matters)
Rom 14:10 we shall all give an accounting of ourselves
Matt 12:36 on that day we shall render an account of every careless word spoken. by our words we shall be acquitted or convicted. (Think about the number of careless words we let fly from our lips daily)
James 2:10-12 we shall act and speak as men destined for judgment under the law of freedom
Again, the final stage of life is not forced upon us but weighs heavy on freedom and responsibility. Now, obviously we will not all have the same standard. As we read int he gospel, God gives to each according to their capabilities (Matt 25:14-30). A child born with a crack addiction will not be looked upon in the same was as myself. God alone knows the shadows of our freedom!
What about general judgment? Particular judgment is when our history ends and we stand before Christ and we will know whether we are with God or without God.
General judgment is when all history ends. Everyones relationship to God and neighbor shall come to light. The furthest consequences of our decisions shall be revealed. All the influences whether for good by the love we shared or bad by the hurt we caused will unfold.
Everyone will see how everyone's lives have interwoven and how God's providence moved history along. It will be as if all will flash before the big screen at Texas stadium and every one will get to see all of it.
Reminder: the guilt that continues on after our existence because of our choices is still a part of us. We are responsible for that in some way. We will have to suffer the pain of seeing our influence unfold in general judgment. This is already a purifying reality. We cannot enter heaven fully until we know the full impact of our life.
In that revelation our hearts and minds will suffer the loss of impurities and be made ready for glory. Only then shall our final place be revealed in where we sit in the whole tapestry of history and existence.
Last the church teaches that in the sacrament of reconciliation we anticipate judgement. That every time we go to confession, confess our sins, seek to amend our life, do penance we enter on the road of conversion that leads us from death to life. If we go to confession regularly and seek to amend our life of the faults and short comings by leaning on God's mercy then in the end what we will discover in particular judgment will not surprise us for we would have been attentive every step of the way.
In the end we will discover that our true identity will have been rooted in the mercy of God we sought daily.