Glory to Jesus Christ!
My dear friends in our Lord: this week we continue our preparation for the coming season of Lent, which is very nearly upon us. Already, we have only one more Sunday before Lent begins in earnest. Time is slipping by quickly, so let us make haste to do the will of God.
Today in our preparation, the Church calls us to consider the Second Coming of our Lord and the Final Judgment. On that day, before the throne of the Just Judge all creatures in heaven and on earth will stand, and before all of them shall all deeds be made known, all secrets shall be laid open; we will all see one another’s works.
Of course, before this will have come our own personal, or particular judgments – that judgment which takes place after our death, in which we – as individuals – are judged before God.
So, then, why another judgment? Simply because we are not solely individuals. We do not live either our natural or our supernatural lives apart from one another. In our particular judgment, our works will be weighed and we will see the state of our own soul. In the final judgment, everything that has ever been done throughout history will be revealed, and we will see how every action is connected with every other action.
In the final judgment we will see how our own actions have been occasioned, perhaps, by actions taken centuries previous. And how our own actions themselves will have had an effect in the years which pass between the present time and the end of time.
None of us live and die solely to ourselves. None of us act solely unto our own benefit – or detriment. All that we do has an effect both within ourselves, but also within our families, our society, our world at large – and even in the greater course of human history. We might not now understand or even begin to suspect how and in what ways our acts, or even our very existence, might effect history; but we can be assured that we do have and we will have such an effect. At the final judgment, all will be revealed. Then will we understand.
Until then, however, we must take care of our own souls through those things which we *can* do and which we *can* understand; yet never losing sight of the fact that we are never alone in what we do. In grace, we are always intimately connected. This is the truth.
Saint Paul gives us our special lesson in this truth this week. A lesson we all would do well to work on between now and next Sunday. He tells us: “Meat doth not commend us to God. For neither, if we eat, shall we have the more; nor, if we eat not, shall we have the less. But take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumblingblock to the weak.”
This is especially timely for us, today being Meatfare Sunday. We see that it is neither eating nor not eating meat that is the mark of the life of grace, but rather – as we spoke about recently – but the control of our own disordered passions and the uprooting of selfish desires.
But, as Saint Paul reminds us, it is not only our*selves* that we ought to be concerned with, even in our fasts. We ought not scandalize each other, even in the name of doing something good and positive. This type of scandal is almost a sport, it’s praised even, among certain groups today. It’s easy to fall into. It spreads itself under the guise of spreading knowledge about the faith. But Saint Paul reminds us that in such a case, “through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ hath died.”
“When you sin thus against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother.”
Let us so prepare ourselves, my friends, so that this Lent we might undertake the fast to our own benefit – and to the benefit of each other. Let us notice that in fasting, we shut out mouths to things which might enter into it. Things which are otherwise good, of course, but which are given up so that we might train our desire to seek that which is above first and foremost.
And while we shut our mouths to these things which would go in, let us also shut out mouths to things which we would want to go out – if these things would scandalize our neighbor. If we fast from meats but not from attacking each other, we have completely lost sight of what we’re doing to begin with.
Let us prepare ourselves, each and every day, so that our acts may be found at the Final Judgment to have been part of the rich tapestry of grace woven throughout history by the Author of grace Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ.