10 February 1991
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Today's Sunday is called the Sunday of the Dread Judgement of the Lord; what is it in the Judgement that is dread: not only awesome, but frightening? It is the fact that having ended our life on earth we will of a sudden stand before the Lord and see that all, or an important part of our life has been wasted irretrievably; that all the meaning of life was loving God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our strength – and all our frailty! – and we have not done it not because we couldn’t: because we did not care... And also, that all the meaning of life was to love our neighbour truly, actively; and love not being an emotion, not being a warm feeling of the heart, but being continuous attitude towards God and our neighbour. Because the Lord has said that he who says that he loves God and does not love his neighbour is a liar, and there is no truth in him.
Also, He has given a measure to what true love is: to love means to lay down our life; not to die, but to consecrate, to dedicate actively our life to those who need our concern and our service.
And when life comes to an end, we stand before a mirror, before the Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom all this is perfectly fulfilled, Who is an image of what we should have been and done; and we see that we have failed to love e v e n our own selves, because we have built our life on futility, on emptiness. It is this moment which is the moment of dread, the moment of horror; it is not the punishment that will follow which makes the Judgement of God into the dread Judgement of which we speak; it is this sudden realisation.
You want a comparison? Think of what would happen if you came home, opened joyfully the door, greeted the person you love most on earth, and receiving no response, made one more step into it and saw that this person has been killed, murdered. The horror of it... T h i s is the horror or an image of the horror which we may w e l l experience when standing before God, we will realise that our all life has been futility and emptiness, and that we bring n o t h i n g with us.
This is something of which we must think, because each of us is in this condition. We live in vain; we live from emotion to emotion, from desire to desire, from hope to hope, from good intention to good intention; but a moment will come when all that will come to an end – and that will be the end, and there will be no time to retrieve what is now irretrievable.
On the way to this final reckoning, to this summing up there is one thing that still on earth is possible: it is repentance, it is conversion, it is a turn, an act of will by which we turn away from emptiness towards the fullness which is in God.
There is also a point which is decisive in our lives; the Lord in the Gospel says: Those who have been without mercy, will meet no mercy; forgive, if you want to be forgiven; and in a week's time, we will all stand in this church, praying for God’s forgiveness and turning to one another, asking for forgiveness. But it is not enough to ask for forgiveness; Saint John the Baptist in the beginning of his preaching, the Lord Jesus Christ when He began to preach said, Repent, a n d b r i n g f o r t h f r u i t s of repentance... To ask for forgiveness is e a s y; but we have no right to ask for forgiveness if we have not made r e p a r a t i o n for what we have done. It is not enough to say to ourselves, ‘I have changed my mind, I am no longer the same, the other one, whom I have hurt, m u s t forgive me’; we must bring to the offended true and complete reparation for the hurt, the pain, the destruction, at times, which we have brought into his or her life.
This is what we stand before n o w, today with the warning; but the moment will come when j u d g e m e n t will come upon us. It is not God Who will condemn us, it is not He Who will be the judge who punishes: it is our conscience that will s t a n d and accuse us. Remember the words of the Gospel: make your peace with the adversary – and the Fathers explain that the adversary is our own conscience: make your peace with your own conscience as long as you are on the way, before you reach the judge, and do realise the horror of suddenly discovering that I a m the murderer: not someone who has killed the beloved one: I am one of those who ran nails into the hands and into the feet of Christ; I a m the one who contrary to His Gospel has despised the hungry, and the naked, and the one who needed being visited in his sickness, and the one who has been in prison was rejected by me because I was ashamed of this connection...
Let us remember; let us remember while there is time; and let us prepare for next Sunday when we will have to a s k for forgiveness and not only give it; and let us also ask ourselves: are we capable of g i v i n g forgiveness? If we can’t give it, we cannot receive either. Amen.