I’ve been watching the Spanish drama on the BBC called “I know who you are.” It’s about a top lawyer who suffers from amnesia after a car crash and the disappearance of his niece. As the plot thickens, I find myself switching from one theory to the next about what really happened and “whodunit.” I’m desperate for the finale! Then all will be made clear. The things that don’t seem to tie together will no doubt all be explained. The baddies and goodies will be identified and all the suspense be resolved.
It’s only when something is over that you can make a proper judgment about it. It’s at the end of someone’s life that the full picture of who they are and have been emerges. We had a funeral at St. Albert’s this morning and, as I usually try to do, I tried to describe the gifts of the deceased, her impact on those who knew and loved her, and then I tried to tie that in with what the Lord wants of us who survive. And that’s where the real life of someone differs from the TV drama. While we can assess someone, we cannot judge. Only the Lord can do that. And while the life on earth of the deceased is over, her real life, her life in heaven, is just beginning. It will never be over; she will not die again; she will not be judged again. Like all those who have gone to God, there will be no need for any further judgment. Everyone will be totally transparent to everyone else. We will know as we are known by God. We will know God and each other with God’s own mind.
The Word of God today speaks of the climax, the final episode of human history. In doing so, it speaks of all of the last things: of death, of judgment, of resurrection, of heaven and of hell. It’s like a great trumpet call to us as we move towards the end of another year. There will come a time when the years themselves will end, time will cease. That trumpet call seeks to awaken us from drifting into death, from sleep-walking into our final judgment. The message it wants to penetrate our deafness is this: that every human life and all of history find their meaning in the love of Christ. More closely, their meaning is found in seeing Christ and loving Him in those who are in need. The Christ in the poor beckons the Christ in the rich so that rich and poor recognize Christ and love Him in one another.
Humanity itself is the poor one. We have nothing we can truly call our own. Our very bodies and minds are gifts from Christ. When Christ asks us to give to the poor, to visit the sick, etc., He is asking us to do what God has already done for us in creating us. We were nothing, and from nothing He gave us everything, even Himself. And when we became even more wretched, as the result of sin and death, He gave us His Spirit of love and eternal life through the emptying of Himself on the Cross. For someone able to give to a poor neighbour, the refusal to do so is like saying that God would refuse to help us. It denies the Cross. Indeed, it is a denial of who God is, it is the rejection of God’s way, of His very mystery.
In human life, there are always some in a position to give and others unable to give. And it can so easily happen that the roles can be switched, because no matter what we have we can never be sure we will always have it. No matter how poor, we can never exclude the possibility that our fortunes might change. This giving and receiving, by whomever to whomever, is the pattern of human social existence. Every person has an innate need to give and to receive. And that need reflects the very nature of God, since the Father and Son are eternally giving to and receiving from one another. So, at the root of our human condition is the divine condition and if we deny the human, so too we deny the divine. If we say no to the human, we say no to the divine. And the judgment of Christ upon us will be to throw light on the judgment we have already made of ourselves. Christ will say, “Go to hell with your curse upon you” to those who have already themselves chosen to go there by their persistent no to the human and divine. He will say, “Come you blessed of my Father” to those who have already chosen His Kingdom by saying yes to the human and divine. Christ but proclaims the judgment we have already brought on ourselves by our free choice.
And what we ought also to note in the parable of the final judgment is that Christ knows each time we say yes or no to true Christian generosity. He is not far removed from our personal lives, but very close indeed. Some like to think that He does not bother with our trivial concerns. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every act of charity, however secret, as every deliberate no to charity, however secret, is known to Him for He is in every truly needy person who likewise seeks to see Him in the one who will help him. Christ is King not only of the universe understood as space, but is also King of history, of all time. Eternity is not something that comes after history, but permeates it, cuts across and through it like a ray of sunlight shoots across the panorama and horizon before us. Precisely as King of space and time, Jesus is embedded in every space and time. Hence, He is present in His divine love and wisdom to every person in every circumstance of every time.
To choose not to love in the simple ways described in the parable is to violate the presence of Christ, to reject Him. Probably for most of us, we are “mixed bags.” We resolve to love, but weakness gets the better of us and apathy sets in. And then we turn to Him for help and we find new strength to love. This pendulum swing is often how we are. And yet, the onus is on us to strive towards ever greater love, not to get lazy and drop out. That’s why we need this parable. It wakes us up and stirs us to do better. We can only work, pray and hope with perseverance until the Lord comes to take us to Himself. Then He will throw the light of His judgment upon our hearts, souls and consciences and we will receive from Him the definitive verdict about who we are.
None of us has certainty in this life about how we stand before God. We cannot presume His mercy; that would be a serious offence against it. But we can have ardent hope and trust in Him which, if sincere, will motivate us to keep trying and to keep going along the path of love. We must pray urgently for His grace. Saint Paul tells us that it is God Himself who gives us the will and the action to do the good works He has prepared for us. So, we must constantly ask Him for these.
I’m inspired today to close with a prayer, “Lord, grant me the will to love. Grant me the action of loving. Out of the hope I have in your infinite tenderness for me in my weakness, give me the wherewithal to accomplish Your will. Forgive my many no’s to Your presence in my neighbour. Heal me of my apathy and of my self-concern. Lift my eyes upward and outwards to perceive my life with Your own vision. Don’t allow me to die closed in on my petty concerns. Correct and focus my mind on what really matters, that is, what You want of me. Shatter my prejudices and self-invented dogmas and principles that only serve to imprison me in vanity. Christ Jesus, my King, that I may love You as I am loved by You. That I may love them as they are loved by You. That they may see You in me as I serve You in them. Reign over me and in me, my Mighty Saviour, for without You what is there, who is there, and who or what am I? Only You know who I really am and I know that I can only really be who I am in You. Christ, my King, I desire to be Yours for ever. Help me in Your great mercy. Amen.”