ON THE PARTICULAR JUDGMENT
“We must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 5:10
Consider the appearance, the accusation, the examination, and the sentence. With regard to the appearance of the soul before her Judge, it is the common opinion of theologians, that the particular judgment takes place at the very moment of death; and that on the very spot where the soul is separated from the body, she is judged by Jesus Christ who shall not send, but will come himself, to judge her according to her works. “At what hour you think not, the Son of Man will come” (Luke 12:40). “He will,” says St. Augustine, “come in love to the good, in terror to the wicked. “O how great shall be the terror of the soul the first time she shall see the Redeemer, and she shall see his countenance full of wrath! “Who,” says the prophet Nahum, “shall stand before the face of his indignation?” (Nahum 1:6). This thought made Father Lewis da Ponte tremble so as to shake the cell in which he lay. Hearing the Dies Irae sung, and reflecting on the terror of the soul when she shall be presented before the tribunal of Jesus Christ, the venerable P. Juvenal Ancina took, and afterwards executed, the resolution of forsaking the world. The sight of the wrath of the Judge shall announce the sentence. “The wrath of the king as messengers of death” (Proverbs 16:14). St. Bernard says that the soul shall suffer more in seeing the indignation of Jesus Christ, than in hell itself. “Mallet esse in inferno.” When presented before an earthly judge, criminals have been known to fall into a cold sweat. Such was the confusion which Piso felt at the thought of appearing as a criminal before the senate, that he killed himself. How great is the pain of a child, or of a vassal, in appearing before an angry parent, or an enraged sovereign! O, how much greater shall be the pain and confusion of the soul when she shall behold Jesus Christ enraged against her for the insults which she offered to him during life. “They shall look upon me, whom they have pierced” (Zecheriah 12:10). The soul shall see in wrath the lamb that bore with her so patiently during life, and that there is no hope of appeasing his anger. This shall make her call upon the mountains to fall upon her, and to hide her from the fury of the wrathful Lamb (Revelation 6:16). Speaking of judgment, St. Luke says, “Then they shall see the Son of Man” (Luke 21:27). O what pain shall the sight of the Judge in the form of a man excite in the soul of the sinner! The sight of a man-God, who had died for his salvation, shall upbraid him with his ingratitude. When the Savior ascended into heave, the angels said to the disciples, “This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
With the same wounds with which he ascended into heaven, Jesus Christ shall come to judge the soul. “Great joy of the beholders,” says the Abbot Rupert, “Great terror of those who are in expectation.” The wounds of the Redeemer shall console the just and terrify the wicked. When Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph, whom you sold,” the Scripture tells us, that, through fear, they were silent and unable to utter a word. “His brethren could not answer him, being struck with exceeding great fear” (cf Genesis 45:3). Now, what answer shall the sinner make to Jesus Christ? Will he dare to ask mercy when he must first tender an account of his abuse of the mercy which he has received? “With what face,” says Eusebius Emissenus, “will you, who are to be first judged for contempt of mercy, ask for mercy?” What then shall become of him? “Where,” says St. Augustine, “shall he fly? He shall behold an angry Judge above; hell open below; on one side, his own sin accusing him; on the other, the devils ready to inflict chastisement; and within, the remorses of his own conscience. ‘Above, shall be an enraged Judge; below, a frightful chaos; on the right, sins accusing him; on the left, the devils dragging him to punishment; within, a burning conscience; whither shall the sinner beset in this manner fly?'”
Affections and Prayers
O my Jesus, I will always call thee Jesus. Thy name consoles and encourages me, because it reminds me that thou art my Savior, who hast died for my salvation. Behold me at thy feet. I acknowledge that I have deserved hell as often as I have offended thee by mortal sin. I am unworthy of pardon, but thou hast died to merit pardon for me. Pardon me, then, immediately, O my Jesus, before thou comest to judge me. I shall not then be able to ask pardon; I can now ask it from thee, and I hope for it. Thy wounds shall then fill me with terror, but now they give me confidence. My dear Redeemer, I am sorry above all things for having offended thy infinite goodness. I purpose to submit to every pain, every loss, rather than forfeit thy grace. I love thee with my whole heart. Have pity on me. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy.” O Mary, mother of mercy, obtain for me a great sorrow for my sins, pardon, and perseverance in the divine love. I love thee, O my queen, and trust in thee.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art: Christ the Judge and Praying Angels, Giovanni da Milano, 1365-69, PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons.