The End of the World and the General Judgment
They shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven
with much power and majesty.--MATT. xxiv. 30.
INTRODUCTION. Today is the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year and the Church very appropriately brings before our minds in the Gospel the final destruction of the world and the circumstances of the general judgment. The words of this Gospel were spoken on Tuesday evening of Holy Week. Our Lord had spent the whole day in the Temple remonstrating and arguing with the Scribes and Pharisees; but to no avail so far as concerned their repentance, or the softening of their stony hearts. And as He withdrew in the evening, sad and heavy at heart, the disciples called His attention to the massive Temple, towering heavenward in its seemingly impregnable grandeur; but the Saviour replied to them: "Do you see all these things? Amen, I say to you there shall not be left here a stone upon a stone that shall not be destroyed." When He had proceeded a little farther and had sat down on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, the disciples, all breathless with fear and foreboding of what His words might mean, asked Him when all these things should come to pass and what would be the sign of His coming. Then were uttered those following terrible prophecies which you have just heard in today's Gospel--warnings and prophecies which were literally fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple only a few years later, and which will be fulfilled even to a greater extents when the end of the world draws near and the day of doom is at hand.
I. The signs of the last judgment: 1. The preaching of the Gospel in the whole World. 2. Great defection from the faith 3. The appearance of Antichrist. 4. These signs will be indications of the approach of the end of all, but we must remember, as Our Lord says (Matt. xxiv. 36), that the day of judgment is unknown and that it will come with the suddenness of a lightning flash and the unexpectedness of a thief by night.
II. Christ will be the judge: I. The power of judging common to all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, because, (a) God gave the Law which governs our actions; (b) we are the servants of God. 2. The exercise of the power of judging especially committed to Christ as man: (a) Christ often declared this (Matt. iil. 12, xiii. 30, 48; xxv. 32; John v. 26, 27) ; (b) it is fitting that Christ should be the Judge, in order that the Judge may be visible to men, and that He who was unjustly judged by men may sit in judgment upon them.
III. The last sentence: 1. The sentence pronounced on the good; (a) Come (to the vision of God); (b) ye blessed (from labor to rest, from warfare to peace, from sorrow and tears to joy and gladness); (c) possess the kingdom (the eternity of heaven). 2. The condemnation of the wicked: (a) depart from me (pain of loss) ; (b) ye cursed (deprivation of every spiritual good); (c) into everlasting fire (pain of sense and the eternity of hell).
EXHORTATION. I. The necessity of frequent reflection on the transitoriness of earthly things. 2, Remember that our judgment will be according to our life. 3. Let us implore our Lord today that His great labors and sufferings for us may not have been in vain, and that He be not obliged to condemn us in the end.
Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part I
ARTICLE VII OF THE CREED
JESUS CHRIST, OUR JUDGE
That the judgment of the world has been assigned to Christ our Lord, not only as God, but also as man, is expressly declared in Scripture. Although the power of judging is common to all the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, yet it is specially attributed to the Son, because to Him also in a special manner, is ascribed wisdom. But that as man, He will judge the world, it taught by our Lord Himself when He says: "As the Father hath life in himself; so he hath given to the Son also, to have life in himself; and he hath given him power to do judgment, because he is the Son of Man." (5)
There is a peculiar propriety in Christ's sitting in judgment; for sentence is to be pronounced on mankind, and they are thus enabled to see their judge with their eyes, and hear him with their ears, and so learn their final doom through the medium of the senses. Most just is it also that He who was most iniquitously condemned by the judgment of men should Himself be afterwards seen by all men sitting in judgment on all. Hence when the prince of the Apostles had expounded in the house of Cornelius the principal dogmas of Christianity, and had taught that Christ was suspended from a cross and put to death by the Jews and rose the third day to life, he added: "And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that this is he, who was appointed of God to be the judge of the living and the dead."(6)
SIGNS WHICH ARE TO PRECEDE THE GENERAL JUDGMENT
The Sacred Scriptures inform us that the general judgment will be preceded by these three principal signs: the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world, a falling away from the faith, and the coming of Antichrist. "This Gospel of the kingdom," says our Lord, "shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall come the consummation.(7) The Apostle also admonishes us that we be not seduced by anyone, "as if the day of the Lord were at hand; for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition," (8) the judgment will not come.
THE LAST SENTENCE
The form and procedure of this judgment the pastor will easily learn from the prophecies of Daniel,9 the writings of the Evangelists and the doctrine of the Apostle. The sentence to be pronounced by the judge is here deserving of more than ordinary attention.
Looking with joyful countenance on the just standing on His right, the Redeemer will pronounce sentence on them with the greatest benignity, in these words: "Come ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world." (10) That nothing can be conceived more delightful to the ear than these words, we shall understand if we only compare them with the sentence of condemnation to be hurled against the wicked; and call to mind, that by them the just are invited; from labor to rest, from the vale of tears to the mansions of joy, from temporal misery to eternal happiness, the reward of their works of charity.
Turning next to those who shall stand on His left, He will pour out His justice upon them in these words: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."(11)
The first words, "depart from me," express the heaviest punishment with which the wicked shall be visited, their eternal banishment from the sight of God, unrelieved by one consolatory hope of ever recovering so great a good. This punishment is called by theologians "the pain of loss," because in hell the wicked shall be deprived of the light of the vision of God."
The words "ye cursed," which follow, increase unutterably their wretched and calamitous condition. If when banished from the Divine presence they were deemed worthy to receive some benediction, this would be to them a great source of consolation. But since they cannot expect God's blessing as an alleviation of their misery, the divine justice, whose severity their crimes have provoked, pursues them with every species of malediction.
The next words, "into everlasting fire," express another sort of punishment which is called by theologians "the pain of sense," because, like other corporal punishments such as lashes, stripes, or other more severe chastisements, it is felt through the organs of sense. Now of all tortures fire certainly causes the most intense suffering. When, moreover, we reflect that this torment is to be eternal we can see at once that the punishment of the damned includes every kind of suffering.
The concluding words "which was prepared for the devil and his angels," make this still more clear. For since nature has so provided that we feel miseries less when we have companions and sharers in them who can, at least in some measure, assist us by their advice and kindness, what must be the horrible state of the damned who can never separate themselves from the companionship of most wicked demons? And yet most justly shall this very sentence be pronounced by our Lord and Saviour on those sinners who neglected all the works of true mercy, who gave neither food to the hungry, nor drink to the thirsty, who refused shelter to the stranger and clothing to the naked, and who would not visit the sick and the imprisoned.
THE FAITHFUL SHOULD BE FREQUENTLY REMINDED OF THE LAST JUDGMENT
These are thoughts which the pastor should very often bring to the attention of his people; for the truth which is contained in this Article will, if accepted with faithful dispositions, be most powerful in bridling the evil inclinations of the heart and in withdrawing men from sin.(13) Hence we read in Ecclesiasticus: "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin."(14) And indeed there is scarcely anyone so given over to vice as not to be recalled to virtue by the thought that he must one day render an account before an all-just judge, not only of all his words and actions, but even of his most secret thoughts, and must suffer punishment according to his deserts.
On the other hand, the just man will be more and more encouraged to lead a good life. Even though his days be passed in poverty, ignominy, and suffering, he must be gladdened exceedingly when he looks forward to that day when, the sorrows of this life being over, he shall be declared victorious in the hearing of all men, and shall be admitted into his heavenly country to be crowned with divine honors that shall never fade.
It only remains, then, for the pastor to exhort the faithful to lead holy lives and practice every virtue, that thus they may be enabled to look forward with confidence to the coming of that great day of the Lord--nay, as becomes children, even to desire it most fervently.
1 Ps. Ixxii. 2, 3, 12-14.. 2 Job xxii. 14. 3 Matt. xxiv. 29.
4 Acts i. n. 5 John v. 26, 27
6 Acts x. 42. 7 Matt. xiv. 14.
8 2 Thess. ii. 2, 3. 9 Dan. vii. 9.
10 Matt. xxv. 34. 11 Matt. xxv. 41.
12 Chrysost.,, in Matt. horn. 23; August, Serm. 181, de temp.; Greg, lib. 9, moral, cap. 46,
13 Aug. serm. 120 de temp.; Greg., hom. 39 in Evang.; Bernard, serm. I in festo ominum Sanctorum.
14 Ecclus. vii. 40.
THE END of THINGS
BY THE VERY REV. SIGOURNEY W. FAY, S.T.D.
THE TWOFOLD PROPHECY OF THIS GOSPEL
The discourse of our Lord contained in to-day's Gospel is composed of two parts. Indeed it is thought by many scholars that there are two distinct discourses.
The first part is a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem, in which, our Lord describes accurately and in great detail exactly what will come upon the Jewish people, upon their sacred city and upon the Temple.
The second part contains our Lord's prophecy of the end of the world.
The two discourses are joined by the phrase "immediately after those days." These words are used, not in the sense of the succession of time, as though the signs preceding the end of the world were to follow instantly upon the destruction of Jerusalem, but they are used in the sense that the destruction of Jerusalem is the sign and symbol of the end of the world, and that as surely as Jerusalem should be destroyed, so will the world come to an end in exactly the way which our Lord foretold. It is as though He had said to His disciples: I am going to foretell to you the destruction of your country, and of this nation, and I am going to foretell it in such detail that when it takes place you will be obliged to recognize that My prophecy has come true literally. With that I am going to join another prophecy of the end of the world, and I am going to prophesy it with equal wealth of detail, and when you see that My prophecy has come about with regard to the fall of Jerusalem, you will know that it is only a question of time until my second prophecy will be equally fulfilled. But that time no man knows but the Father. Even I do not know it in the sense that I could reveal it to you. But you shall see that which will be the beginning of the end, for the destruction of Jerusalem will be the beginning of that of which the consummation will be the destruction of all things. "This generation shall not pass away," said our Lord, "until all these things be fulfilled." By this He did not mean that that generation should see the end of the world, but He meant that they should see that which was to be the earnest of the consummation of all things, and the fulfillment of which would be the guarantee of the truth of His prophecy about the end of the world. "Heaven and earth," He said, "shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away."
THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
All this came out exactly as our Lord had prophesied. Before that generation had passed away Jerusalem was destroyed. It was destroyed after a fearful siege and the Jews actually suffered all those terrible things which our Lord told them would come upon them. They saw the abomination of desolation set up in the Temple; that is, they saw the armed soldiers enter into the very Holy of Holies, and they saw the Temple utterly destroyed, laid waste and made desolate; they saw their holy city razed to the ground, and a new city, with a new name built upon its ruins, and a pagan temple set up upon the foundations of what had once been the Temple of God.
From that time the Jewish race was dispersed over the whole world. Every attempt to return was foredoomed to failure. Julian, the apostate Emperor, after he ceased to be a Christian, in order to use the Jews to hurt the Christians, tried to rebuild the Temple three hundred years after it had been destroyed, but he was not able. Jerusalem became a pagan city, then a Christian city, then a Mohammedan city, but never again a Jewish city After eighteen centuries the Jews still resort to what is left of the foundation of their Temple, upon which there stands now a Mohammedan mosque, and weep over the stones. They have been driven out of their own city, and they will be strangers in every land until they are content to believe that which their own prophets have spoken to them, and accept and adore the Son of God.
Frederick the Great of Prussia, who was an infidel, once asked one of his court chaplains to give him in a word a convincing proof of Christianity. "What I want," said the King, "is something I do not think you can give me. I want a clear proof that everyone can see that Christ's religion is true and that He is Divine. If He is Divine there ought to be so clear an argument for His Divinity that it could be summed up in one word, but that you cannot do." "Oh, yes, sire," said the chaplain, "we can." "What is that argument?" said the King. "The Jew, sire" said the chaplain.
THE END OF THE WORLD
How few of those who heard our Lord's words believed that what He had threatened Jerusalem with would come to pass, and yet they lived to see it. And we, likewise; how little we act as though this world would ever come to an end, and well we know that the destruction of Jerusalem was according to our Lord's prophecy, the beginning of the end of all things.
Nothing is more certain than that this world will come to a terrible end; that our Lord will come in glory with His saints to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire; and though for eighteen hundred years Jerusalem has been a warning to the world of its approaching doom, the world takes no notice. Like the Jews they disregard our Lord's words; they go in sin, in unbelief and in rebellion against God's law.
Nothing is more certain, as I said before, than that the end will come, and nothing is so uncertain as the time when people look for signs of our Lord's coming; those signs of which He Speaks in the Gospel have been in the world ever since the Ascension. There is no generation which has passed without a warning; there is no generation that has been able to say to itself that the world would outlast it. Perhaps we have less cause to trust in the permanency of the world than any generation that came before. The whole world is harassed by wars and rumors of wars, distress of nations, famine, pestilence and cataclysms of nature, for the last twenty years has been a period unprecedented with regard to such things. No one knows when the hour will strike, only we know that our Lord said He would come quickly; He would come like a thief in the night, and that we must watch.
SIGNS OF THE END OF THE WORLD
There is one sign of which our Lord spoke which has been increasing in the last three hundred years--the sign of false religions. Three hundred years ago the religious unity of Western Christianity was broken. Those who went out from us immediately split into three parties--the Lutherans, the Calvinists and the Zwinglians. Time has not healed these divisions but only increased them. They have divided and sub-divided, unable to unite in anything except their hatred of the Church and the ancient faith. For three hundred years the world has been filled with the cry, lo, here is Christ; lo, there. At the present time the world is deafened with the babble of religious discord in which all faith in religion bids fair to disappear; only the Church stands firm. But she has been terribly persecuted even in our own times in two different countries of Europe. Twice within living memory here in America the tide of bitterness against her has risen to fever heat. All the things that were said against our Lord and against His first disciples are said against the Church to-day. Never was there prospect of a more bitter warfare between the powers of good and evil, of light and darkness, of truth and error than in our own time. Nay, even the false signs and wonders are not lacking, of which our Lord spoke, for we are asked to believe that the miracles with which our Lord has always adorned His true Church can be duplicated among the Christian Scientists.
DEATH, THE END OF THE WORLD FOR THE INDIVIDUAL
But there is a sense in which we may take this prophecy to ourselves as individuals. Certainly the end of the world wilt come in our time for each one of us, and whether in our own days we have to face the General Judgment, every one of us will have to face the Particular Judgment at the hour of our death.
The General Judgment will have no terrors for those who have come safely through the Particular Judgment. Nothing is more certain than that we must die; nothing more uncertain than the hour of our departure. Human life is the most uncertain thing that we know of, yet it is treated as the most certain. We make plans for ten years when we have no assurance that we shall live for ten minutes. We act as though we were to live on this earth forever, when that is the one thing we know we shall not do. We live as though death could not possibly overtake us; as if whoever else was overtaken we should escape, whereas we know that to escape death is the one impossible thing.
PREPARATION FOR DEATH
Our Lord said that the children of this world were wiser in their generation than the children of light, by which He means that people who know nothing of Divine things and who lived for this world alone really acted prudently with regard to the things of the world, which is all they know about; whereas we who know the truth of God, who by the light of divine faith are certain that this life is short and that eternity is long, and that in this short space of our mortal life we are preparing for ourselves a happy or a miserable eternity, often live as if this life were all and as though eternity could take care of itself, "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" At the hour of death, which must surely come to us all, what good will our wealth do us? What good will our social position do us? What good will earthly honors and emoluments be to us ? We shall be only too happy in that hour if those things have not been our destruction. Nothing will profit us then but to have served God; to have obeyed His Church; to have kept His law. It is only the man who has thought of his soul, who has thought of eternal things, who has lived with the hour of his death ever before him, who will be able to face it with calmness and courage. It is no use pretending that we can repent when we are old. We have no assurances that we shall ever reach old age. It is absolutely useless for us to say that we will enjoy ourselves now, but we will certainly send for a priest at the hour of our death. Neither the time, nor the place, nor the circumstances of our death will be in our control. We must all try to live like the saint who was once asked at recreation what he would do if he were told that the world would come to an end in five minutes, and he replied, "Exactly what I am doing now." God will not abandon in their last hour those who have been faithful to Him all their lives. But what right have those who have been unfaithful to Him to expect that He will inundate them with those great graces which will be necessary for them if they are to meet and overcome Satan in his last onslaught upon their souls.
Let us try, then, always to live as those who are about to die. Let us husband every grace which God gives us. Let us try by divine grace to excite within us a horror, not only of mortal but also of venial sin. Let us approach the Sacrament of Penance frequently that our souls may be frequently washed by the blood of our Divine Redeemer. But let us, above all, receive the Blessed Eucharist with the greatest frequency possible, in order that we may ever have Him within us who has overcome death and hell. Those who carry our Lord constantly in their hearts, who live a life of union hidden with Christ in God, need have no fear of the hour of death. Satan has been overcome once by our Lord; he has been driven back, he has been put to confusion. He will not dare to assault any soul in which he recognizes that our Lord has taken up His abode.
This is the end of the Church's ecclesiastical year. The Gospel of this Sunday, which is the last Sunday of the old year, and the Gospel of the next Sunday which is the first Sunday of the new year, alike speak of judgment as though the Church looked upon it as her greatest message. Now that the year is ended she says to us, my children, remember: life is short and eternity is lose.
Remember that death cometh, and after death judgment, and after judgment either heaven or hell. And next Sunday she will say the same thing--death and judgment. Let us look into our own hearts, my dear brethren, and see what the last year has brought us; whether we are nearer to God or further away from Him. To-day when we hear the Church crying from her altars, death and judgment, are we more prepared for both than we were a year ago? This year was part of the time given to us by God to prepare for both; next year may be the year appointed for us to meet both. Do not look at your wealth, at your possessions, at your success, but look for a moment at least into your own souls. Youth will pass away, health will desert you, your money must be left behind, but your soul must go on. It does not depend on anyone else but yourself alone, whether it goes into an eternity of peace or an eternity of misery.
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
BY THE REV. THOS. WHITE
Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with power and majesty.--LUKE xxi. 27.
THE SIGNS OF THE LAST JUDGMENT
Such are the signs and prodigies that shall precede the day of the Lord. Previously to this event "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom"; false prophets shall arise, and by their doctrines pervert even the most zealous defenders of the Gospel; exhausted nature shall behold her children languid with affright "and withering with expectation of what shall come upon the whole world." Then shall the sun be covered with darkness, the moon stained with blood, the stars fall from the firmament, and the earth shaken to its lowest foundations: then shall there "be distress of nations, by reason of the roaring of the sea" breaking down its boundaries: then the elements shall be in confusion; "the powers of heaven be moved; and then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty." From the highest heaven and from the throne of God shall be despatched the delegate of the Most High; the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall arise. Great God! what a spectacle will then be exhibited to our view! The earth shall cast out the bodies of the dead of all ages, hell shall vomit forth the souls of the guilty, heaven for a time surrender the spirits of the just. The kindred bones shall again be joined, the parted members shall be united, and flesh shall once more form a receptacle which the souls shall again animate.
CHRIST, THE JUDGE
Behold, the Lord appears! millions of angels prepare the way; millions surround Him! Borne upon a cloud, as on a triumphal car. He is invested with light and glory. But, my friends, the description of this awful day, when the whole race of man shall be assembled before the sovereign Judge, defies the power of language; the utmost effort of the imagination is insufficient to embrace the important reality! But feeble as must be every attempt to paint the terrors of this tremendous hour, the meditation upon what shall then certainly take place has drawn many from the filth of sin to sincere repentance. It would be advantageous to us, my brethren, to bring this day of wrath more frequently to our minds. Uncertain whether we be deserving of love or hatred, a dark cloud forbidding us to penetrate into futurity, what can tend more powerfully to preserve us from sin and animate us to virtue than the frequent consideration of that day on which depends our everlasting rest or never-ceasing misery? I shall this day offer to you two reflections, which, if they are suffered to make impression, are calculated to produce a fear and love of God. At the last accounting day all the crimes of the sinner shall be revealed--at that day all his offenses shall be condemned to a severe but merited punishment.
Though all the attributes of the Deity are infinite, yet His unerring wisdom and immovable justice inspire us with particular awe. By the light of His supreme wisdom all things are manifested to Him; His eye penetrates into every secret place, and at the last day the sovereign Judge will display, in the sight of the whole assembled world, all the abominations of sinful mortals. Here on earth men can form only an imperfect judgment of offenses perpetrated against God; nor can they ever exactly proportionate the punishment to the offense; and, therefore, is human justice often under the necessity of sentencing to the same punishment crimes very different in their degrees of enormity. Neither does human justice extend to all manner of guilt. The thought of malice, the secret resolution of revenge, the dark design and guilty desire rest secure within the shelter of the human breast, defying all the researches of men; but the justice of God will reach every hidden motion of the heart, for His wisdom penetrates the inmost recess of the soul. Nothing shall escape His justice, as nothing can escape His cognizance. A ray of celestial light darted from the countenance of the Son of God shall beam on the naked soul of every sinner. Every veil shall be withdrawn, every folding laid open, and the effulgence of the Deity shall expose to perfect view every transgression. "The heavens shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. The offspring of his house shall be exposed, he shall be pulled down in the day of God's wrath" (Job xx. 27). Let us transport ourselves in spirit to this august tribunal, before which shall be assembled all nations and tribes of the earth: let us represent to our minds the long catalogue of all our sins from the days of our childhood to the present hour, all laid open to the examination of the collected world, and of each individual. Then shall that take place which would now so much alarm you. Were the sins of each person here assembled made known to his neighbor, how would you be disconcerted? Then would the innocent victim of your hypocrisy perceive that the seeming regard and friendship with which you accosted him, while you wished to draw from him the secrets of his heart, or were solicitous to gain him over as an auxiliary in defaming, vilifying, ruining your neighbor's sacred property, I mean his fair fame and reputation, were no more than deceitful professions prepared to ensnare him; that perhaps, with all the show of affection, you hated or envied him, and having parted company, you had hastened to another, it might be even his bosom friend, and there abused the confidence he had placed in you, stabbed his character in turn, and delighted in the cruel deed. All your treachery, your malice, your envy; all your slanders, detractions, willful misrepresentations and misinterpretations; all your pride and ambition, which have made you studious to appear under favorable but false colors, while you endeavored, by every art, to blacken your unsuspecting neighbor; all your covetousness, forgetfulness of the poor, your excesses, your impurities, your profaneness; every thought, word and deed will be disclosed at the last day, not to this assembly only, but to the whole world; to prince and subject, to priest and people. Oh! how shall we stand this piercing light of God's knowledge? How will the unrepenting sinner bear the confusion of this disclosure?
Were only those sins collectively exhibited which have been committed in the blaze of noon, and in the public view of the world, what a mass of hideous and terrific deformity would be displayed, but what a spectacle will be presented to our eyes when every latent act of intemperance and dark malice, when many a horrid murder, unknown to the research of earthly justice, and the base perpetrator of the deed shall be held up to shame; when every criminal action, every profane and irreligious word, every thought of fraud, of envy, of malice, every shameful desire, every secret defilement, will be brought to light, and be seen in genuine deformity! When, among the rest, our guilt shall be manifested to the whole world, what will be our confusion and terror ? How many sins will occur to us, on a moment's reflection, which we would not have discovered to a husband, a parent, a friend, for any consideration whatever? Were our consciences to be laid open merely to this small assembly, what blushes would overspread our countenances, what agony torture our souls? The little jealousies which we have entertained, the thoughts of envy at another's qualifications, mental or personal, would be discovered to those who had been the subject of them; the slanders, detractions, calumnies, which we have uttered against our neighbor, the pride, the vanity, the ostentation, which we have indulged, being exposed to the view even of those whose opinion we now affect to despise would overwhelm us with shame and sorrow. Familiarized to the thought of your sins, now while they are concealed within the secrecy of your own breasts, they make a slight impression, but they will then fill sinners with grief and dismay, "and they shall begin to say to the mountains: fall upon us, and to the hills, cover us" (Luke xxiii. 30).
All the details and consequences of each sin, all the varying and aggravating circumstances which in the sacred tribunal of penance have been concealed, distorted, disguised, shall then be represented in their true form and color. You now persuade yourselves that such an action, for which you feel a secret inclination, or which you do not find yourselves ready to forsake, or which you cannot prevail on yourselves to mention with intelligible accuracy in confession, is not sinful; or at least is of so trivial a nature that you may approach to the feet of Jesus and obtain forgiveness of other sins while a reserve is made for this: but you will, at the great accounting day in this general confession of every offense, discover the fallacy which you have employed to deceive yourselves. The mystery of iniquity shall be then unfolded, and every pretext and subterfuge be dispelled; the most hidden sins which had been perpetrated in deepest solitude, secure from the inspection of every mortal eye, the enormities which the dark mantle of the night had wrapt in closest secrecy, which had scarcely been entrusted with fearful confidence to your own hearts, shall then be seen exposed in the full blaze of the divine splendor. O God, thy eye penetrates the secrets of every heart, nothing is concealed from thee! "Whither shall I go from thy spirit; or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there; if I descend into hell, thou art there . . . and I said: perhaps darkness shall cover me; but night shall be my light in my pleasures. Darkness shall not be dark to thee, and night shall be light as the day: the darkness of the one and the light of the other are alike to thee" (Ps. cxxxviii. 7). "Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight; but all things are naked and open to his eyes" (Heb. iv. 13).
Then shall be brought to light the neglect of so many things designed for your salvation, the pretexts that have been employed in excuse for negligence in assisting at Mass, approaching to the holy Sacraments, receiving necessary instructions, applying to mental prayer, bestowing suitable alms, will all be exposed as frivolous and nugatory. Then will the contrast be evident between the alleged difficulty of performing works of piety and the surprising alacrity displayed on every occasion when amusement, interest, dissipating pleasures, or unprofitable employments invited. Today the slightest symptoms of indisposition, a clouded atmosphere, a trifling disappointment, are found sufficient excuses to justify your absence from the temple of God, and the great propitiatory sacrifice--when lo, on the succeeding day, the card invites to fashionable amusements, vain pleasures, and even sometimes dangerous associations, and neither increased indisposition, nor the state of the atmosphere; nor any obstacles, are regarded. The sudden transitions from heat to cold, the nightly dews, and wintry showers are braved without one alarming fear in the pursuit of pleasure, vanity, or interest. I know that each one persuades himself that this is not his case; but I contend that thousands will then discover, to their cost, that they have sacrificed their devotions, their duty, their salvation, to idle and criminal enjoyments. Often here below the exterior of virtue covers a heart black with guilt; how many whose delight is slander and detraction, are ever boasting their sensibility and charitable feeling? How many, of either sex, affecting the utmost external reserve, are corrupted in their hearts; or in their whole deportment are influenced by pride, or other vices, odious in His sight who knows and sees all things? But then shall the artificial veil be lifted up, the vizor torn away from the face of hypocrisy; and rage, and despair, and consternation, be the portion of the sinner forever.
The light of God's countenance having disclosed every hidden secret. His justice will pronounce an irrevocable sentence upon His guilty creatures. He is a God of purity, and cannot endure iniquity. That face which is the delight of the just, which so many have desired to behold, that face which shall afford joy to the blessed for all eternity, shall dart terror and confusion upon the wicked. "The adversaries of the Lord shall fear him, and upon them shall he thunder in the heavens; the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth" (I Kings ii. 10) ; "and he will sharpen his severe wrath for a spear, and the whole world shall fight with him against the unwise" (Wisdom v. 21). No longer figure to yourselves the sovereign Judge under the endearing forms by which He has chosen to represent His present mercy; no longer consider Him as a tender father receiving the prodigal son into His arms and pressing him to His bosom; no longer view Him as the loving spouse of your souls, inviting you to His chaste embraces; as the shepherd seeking the strayed sheep; as the lamb slain from the beginning, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. No, sinners, the hour of mercy is gone by, and you have despised it; justice, inexorable justice, is the attribute that shall be displayed in its fullest extent, and in it shall the glory and majesty of that God be magnified whose forbearance is now treated as imbecility. Then shall He come forth as "a lion prepared for the prey" (Ps. xvi. 12). The wicked shall fall before Him, and forever feel the dread severity of His vengeance; then shall be displayed the "sign of the Son of Man" (Matt. xxiv. 30). The cross shall be borne before the Lord, the instrument of our redemption, the proof of His ineffable humility, patience, and love, of man's guilt and baseness. Then shall our blessed Saviour expose His sacred wounds, those fountains of mercy which will then cease to plead in our behalf, and convict us of foul ingratitude and contempt of His goodness. He will then stretch forth His almighty arm, and the weight of His fury will fall upon sinners; every crime shall receive its merited punishment in proportion to its turpitude; every action, every word, and every thought shall be weighed in the balance of divine justice. "I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account of it in the day of judgment" (Matt. xii. 36). Oh, what consternation and dismay will oppress the guilty when Jesus Christ shall arise to pronounce the last, the irrevocable sentence! what deathlike silence shall prevail through the inconceivable multitudes of assembled nations, and tribes, and people who have ever drawn breath on the face of the earth. But who shall describe the horrid sensations, the already commenced tortures of eternity, that will overpower the wicked, when the irreversible sentence has been fulminated against them! Then shall he say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt xxv. 41). Oh, dreadful sentence! Oh, bitter separation! "Depart from me"; far from the joys of my kingdom, from every comfort, into the darksome dungeons of hell, the bottomless pit, where torments everlasting shall be your portion, "Go, ye cursed," etc.
PREPARATION FOR THE JUDGMENT
Oh, my brethren, shall we who now have it in our power to shun this endless calamity, through mere indolence, or, what is worse, through downright malice �f heart, bring it upon ourselves! Yes, it is by the willful malignity of the sinner that he loses the eternal enjoyment of all good, and is involved in endless misery. "According to thy hardness and impenitent heart," says St. Paul, "thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath and of the revelation of the just judgment of God" (Rom. ii. 5). If we wish to avoid all the confusion of that dreadful day and all its subsequent misfortunes, let us now, in this our day, frequently meditate upon them, and avoid sin, which alone can involve us in eternal misery. "If we would judge ourselves," says the same Apostle, "we should not be judged" (i Cor. xi. 31). If we would examine ourselves with sincerity, according to our best ability, would accuse ourselves in the secret tribunal erected by Him who is to be our future Judge, with real humility and contrition of heart, would punish in our flesh the sins we have committed, according to the greatness of our offenses, or rather according to the greatness of our repentance, we should escape the humbling manifestation of the last day, and the sentence of eternal reprobation. My friends, let us consider that "the night is now past, the day is at hand," and, therefore, "let us now raise from sleep" (Rom. xiii. 11). Have you not been hitherto slumbering in fatal lethargy, and that, too, on the brink of a precipice, down which, had you unhappily fallen, you must have been precipitated into hell? Oh, then, awake, ye who sleep, arise, "no longer make provisions for the flesh in its concupiscences, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ," walk henceforward in all His ways, that you may escape the sentence of the wicked, and be admitted to the joys of heaven, there to praise and glorify your God forever!