Friday, June 22, 2012

Scary Business

Indeed, [our defilement] it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgment we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart's time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ.

The judgment of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgment and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

Spe Salvi 47

Reflection – So this concludes the paragraph I began to blog on yesterday. Since I talked all about Purgatory yesterday, I want to focus more today on the Pope’s theology of judgment here.

Ooooh, the judgment of God. Scary business, right? I think few of us, unless we are utterly delusional, feel insouciantly casual about waltzing up to the throne of God to receive our particular judgment. I believe, deeply and truly, in God’s mercy and love, his tender compassion and care for me and for all the other poor wretched sinners in the world, but even so… God’s judgment! Oooh… scary! And I think we would be either very great fools or very great saints not to feel a little bit of that fear.

But the judgment of God as experiencing and absorbing “the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves [and] the pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.” Well, that’s something to think about for a few seconds or maybe a few lifetimes.

And so justice and grace meet and merge and become one. The mercy of God is poured out on mankind, but we receive that mercy as a purifying fire cleansing the scourge of evil from our souls. I remember in this context a difficult period in my own life. I had been a member of Madonna House for a few years, and as is often the case my life in community and in the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience was bringing to the surface all my hidden darkness, sin, disbelief.

Oh, the seven deadly sins were having a capital time at my expense! This is a relatively normal experience, by the way, at least in Madonna House and probably in other vocations too. As we begin in earnest to walk the path of the Gospel everything in us that is anti-Gospel rears up and a mighty battle commences.

So, at that time I began making a holy hour every day. Sheer necessity, I realize now looking back at it. And I found that the only prayer that brought me peace in those holy hours was to read the Old Testament prophets and their prophecies of doom for Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, etc. Strange… but these consoled me like nothing else did.

I finally realized what was happening. God was teaching me that evil has an end. Evil—my evil, the world’s evil, any evil—does not just go on and on and on. The battle does have an end, personally and collectively, and that end is the victory of God.

Evil will be destroyed. Be it in the fires of purgatory or the path of suffering love in this world, evil will be destroyed. God is victorious. His victory is mercy and grace, but this mercy and grace are His total justice which casts out evil and raises up all that is good.

So this is our hope, always and everywhere. God is on the move, on the march, and His movement of love is right into the heart of the world’s pain and darkness, to share it and overcome it by his divine power.


  1. Father, this post and yesterdays have been wonderful--very enlightening and needed for this recent Tiber-swimmer. I don't believe the doctrine of Purgatory was ever even mentioned in our RCIA class, and I found this quite helpful!

    1. Glad to hear it - yes, it's a neglected doctrine, yet a really important one, as I've tried to draw out here with a little help from BXVI. Good to know it helped you.

    2. From this morning...
      "oh how abundant is your goodness that you have laid up for those who fear you,, and accomplished for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of everyone! In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots; you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues"
      Psalm 31:19-20


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