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We probably all know the Gospel of the Last Judgement, how, at the end of time the Only Knower of Hearts (Acts 1,24), Christ God, will Himself pass judgement on our whole lives, on the lives of all humanity, and how from the Dread Judgement-Seat the evil and the good will be separated for all eternity. The good will experience the presence of God as bliss, the evil as a burning, consuming fire (Hebrews 12,29). However, there are few who notice the word 'last' in the phrase 'Last Judgement'. The significance of 'last' is that if there is a last judgement, there must also be others before it, a whole series of judgements, a first, a second, a third and so forth. What are these other judgements?

We can see these judgements in the human life of the Judge Himself. His Conception was a judgement, a judgement on His Holy Mother, whom 'all generations will call blessed', a judgement on men who could not believe in the miracle of His conception and slandered His Mother. His Birth was a judgement, a judgement on the wickedness of men who allowed him to be born with beasts and a judgement on the goodness of men who gave him shelter in a stable, and who came as shepherds and later as Wise Men to venerate Him. His Presentation in the Temple, forty days after His Birth, was a judgement on the holiness and longsuffering of St Simeon, who could then 'depart in peace' and on the righteousness of St Anna, but also a judgement on Herod who was about to search Him out to kill Him, forcing Him to flee as a refugee.

In the same way, His visit to the Temple at the age of twelve was a judgement on mankind, His Baptism was a judgement on mankind, His tempting by the devil, His public preaching, His Sermon on the Mount, His arrest, His scourging, His Crucifixion, His Resurrection, His Ascension into Heaven - every single event in His life as a man was a judgement. And these events continue to be judgements - judgements on how mankind reacts to Christ, whether we have faith and believe, whether we accept Him or reject Him, whether we worship Him by coming to His Church for His Feasts and communing with Him in confession and communion, or whether we despise Him by ignoring Him in cold indifference. Our faith or lack of it is a judgement on ourselves and our lives will be according to that judgement.

In the same way, it can be said that our own first moment of judgement is our conception, our second is our birth and then the rest of our lives is that series of judgements of which we talked earlier. Every meeting, every event, every activity, every sadness and every joy is a judgement on our lives, and that judgement is either a reward or a punishment. This is why Christian people say, 'God is our judge', about the events in our daily lives and our choices. Some rather primitive people also say whenever a misfortune occurs: 'God has punished him'. This of course is not Christian, for God never punishes anyone, but He does allow misfortunes to happen because that is what we have chosen for ourselves. Let me explain.

The human-being can be compared to a machine. If a machine is used correctly, it does its job. But if a machine is mistreated and misused, it will break down. So also with human-beings. We are made to work according to the natural laws planted within us by the Creator who then gives us the freedom to operate our human machines according to the instruction manual, or not. If we do not obey these laws, our machines will break down. If we engage in what is unnatural, for example, smoking tobacco or drugging ourselves with alcohol, then we will fall ill and die early, before our time: certainly, judgement has been passed on our choice of way of life, but we cannot say that God has punished us. In reality, we have punished ourselves through our attachment to our vice or passion. And it may be any vice or any passion, the above are merely examples among many.

Do we then despair before the thought of continual judgement leading to 'The Last Judgement'? I think not.

You see, apart from that untrue saying about God punishing us, there is another unChristian saying: 'As you make your bed, so you must lie on it'. This saying contains in it the truth that we have to take responsibility for our actions, that God is Just. But it overlooks the other half of the Truth, that God is not only a Just Judge, but that He is also Merciful and loves mankind. This is why this hard saying about making beds and lying on them is so deeply unChristian, for it excludes the essence of God's relationship to man, His Love. Yes, we must take responsibility for our choices in our lives, but we can always, at any moment in the here and now, change our way of life. Repentance and Forgiveness are always possibilities.

The fact is that God is where Mercy and Righteousness are met together. All too often, however, when we see others sin, we think only of God's Righteousness, when we ourselves sin, we think only of God's Mercy. It should be exactly the other way round, mercy for others, but judgement for ourselves.

So let us remember, although today is not the Last Judgement, today God's daily judgement of us continues. May He have mercy on us all.


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