Let’s say that there is a major athletics race or tournament at the end of the year that you have signed up for. Would you prepare for the competition by stuffing yourself with doughnuts and watching how other athletes train by watching as many Youtube videos as you can, or would you begin a dedicated Strength and Endurance training, followed by a careful and intentional watch on your nutrition? Would a powerlifter be able to safely lift 300 if she had not been training incrementally and making progress bit by bit?
So a liturgical year has come and gone and the joyous season of Advent is upon us. What have we done to prepare truly for the Lord’s coming? The season of Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus into the world, more important however, it is a time of preparation for the Lord’s second coming. Between the Lord’s first coming and the final coming, as Bishop Gumbleton, from the National Catholic Report says, “is the time in which we live now,” and there are lessons that we need to pay heed to.
As we consider and wait upon the Lord’s second coming, we must come to understand that at our death, there are Four Last Things – Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell.
Death is but a means for the Christian who unites his own death to Christ as a step towards Him and an entry into everlasting life (C.C.C. 1020). It is a separation of our mortal bodies from our immortal souls. This is but a temporary state, as a result of Original Sin, for at the end of the world, all of humanity will rise again to be judged by Christ the King. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul – a destiny which can be different for some and for others (C.C.C 1021; cf Luke 16:22; 23:43; Matthew 16:26; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Hebrews 9:27; 12:23).
At the moment of our death, each person will be meted out a particular judgement based on how we have lived our lives, accepted, or rejected Jesus. We will be immediately sent to Heaven either via purification, or immediately, or immediate and everlasting damnation (C.C.C. 1022).
When Jesus comes a second time, we will be given the Last Judgement otherwise known as the Universal Judgement and we would know our very purpose in time and how each action of ours resulted in the Salvific work of God or not. In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life (C.C.C. 1039).
Heaven is the eternal state of perfect happiness resulting from the face to face vision of God, which is the reward of those who have served Him in this life.
Hell is the eternal state of torment and despair which awaits those who, in this life, have freely rejected God and the happiness which He offers.
Before the end of the world, there will be an intermediate state called purgatory. There, those who are bound for heaven, but whose love for God is still marred by some imperfection, undergo a temporary period of purifying suffering. When this purification is complete, they are fit to enter God’s presence and are admitted to the joys of heaven. (C.C.C. 1023 – 1037)
As we await the Second Coming of Jesus, perhaps the lesson from prophet Baruch rings true: “Jerusalem, put off your garment of mourning and unhappiness. Put on the splendour and glory of God forever, for God will show you your splendour. God will call your name forever, peace and justice, glory in the fear of the Lord. Rise up, Jerusalem. Stand on the heights. Look toward the east. See your children gathered together from the setting of the sun to its rising, by the voice of the Holy One rejoicing because God has remembered them.” (Baruch 1: 5) The time is long, but God remembers us and is with us. Our concerns, are God’s concerns.
By Brian Bartholomew Tan
Sources: Catechism of the Catholic Church
EWTN, National Catholic Report