Christ our Judge
I can scarcely believe that we have already arrived at the First Sunday of Advent, the first day of the new liturgical year. Advent, of course, is the time to prepare for the birth of Our Lord JESUS Christ Who is Saviour and Redeemer of the world. But let us not forget that He will also come to judge us.
Today we light the first candle on our Advent wreath. This wreath is symbolic of Our Lord, firstly because He is the Light. As St John writes at the beginning of his Gospel, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:14-5). The Advent wreath is also made in a circle with green leaves. This is a symbol of eternity because JESUS is true God, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit and is therefore eternal. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Then you may think of the three purple candles as representing JESUS Christ as Judge, JESUS Christ as King, and JESUS Christ as Saviour of the world. The rose candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent we may think of as rejoicing because the Lord is near. And the One Who is near is the One Who will judge us.
Yes, it is a fact that when Christ returns He will judge us. This is referred to in today’s Gospel: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). JESUS is going to return in all His glory and majesty and judge us. Many of us tend to forget about this, but isn’t it interesting that this is the first image the Church gives us of Our Lord in the new liturgical year! So let us not fall into the temptation of thinking of JESUS only as our Saviour. He certainly is our Saviour – He is the only Saviour, but we also say in the Creed every week, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. And He Himself tells us, “The Father Himself judges no one, but has assigned all judgment to the Son, so that all men may honour the Son just as they honour the Father” (John 5:22,23, 27).
The resurrection of all the dead will precede the Last Judgment; those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29). And at this time, all will see their life as they lived it placed before Christ the Just Judge Who sees everything. At death we will all undergo the ‘particular judgment’, but at the Last Judgment, the ‘particular judgment’ will be made public – all the good we have done and all the evil we have done will be made known to everyone – the sins of commission as well as the sins of omission. This thought need not frighten us if we repent of our sins.
So this doctrine of the Last Judgment is really a call to conversion and reform of our lives. We need to see everything in the light of eternity. Don’t be caught off guard! St Paul tells us the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. In other words we don’t know the day or the hour when the Son of Man will return. So let us not sleep but be awake and sober (Thessalonians 5:2,6) so that we will be able “to stand with confidence before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). This is an excellent time to make a good, humble confession of our sins.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC