Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Last Judgment - Afterlife Lenten Meditations (Part 3)

Composition of Place – Imagine you see Jesus seated on a magnificent throne in order to pass judgment on everyone, and you in particular; and that there, surrounded by the Apostles and saints, in the presence of all the peoples who have existed, now exist, and will exist, He asks you for an accounting of all the good and evil that you have done, all your deeds and omissions, even your idle words.

Prayer of Petition – Lord, I beg Thee to grant me the grace I need to live a good and holy life so that when Thou dost come to judge me Thou wilt not have to condemn me.

First Point

At the approach of Judgment Day everything will be in dreadful turmoil. The sun, the moon and the stars will not give light, and the world will be left in darkness; vegetation and flowers will wither and bear no fruit.

Sickness and contagion will multiply and become acute, and will leave parents bereaved of children, and children grieving at the loss of parents. Families will lose heirs and cities will be left without inhabitants.

Prolonged and cruel wars will bring desolation on the most flourishing kingdoms. Bloody strife among men will end in frightful public disorder. Famine will wipe out whole families and destitution will bring thousands of the survivors to the grave.

After this, the most cruel tyrant that has ever been seen in the world will come to power. He will be that bloodthirsty beast, the Antichrist, who will spread deceit and terror throughout the world. Oh, the distress! the calamities!

What great panic there will be! Who will want to live during those bitter days? Mortal men will weep, with no one to sympathize. They will be overwhelmed with pain with no one to bring relief. How even speak of relief? Suffering will grow every moment.

Yes, God's wrath, held back for so many centuries, will release the elements so that they will be stirred up to concerted action against the sinner. The air will yield lightning and radiation which will cast buildings to the ground. A terrible hail with rocks from the sky will lay waste the farmlands.

Dreadful crashes of thunder will be heard that will bring panic. The ground will quiver with frightful earthquakes. Great holes will appear which will swallow up entire cities. The richest palaces, the strongest forts, will shake and fall to ruin.

The sea will burst the dikes, and as its raging waters rise up to the clouds, its waters will dash over all the land, will terrify men with frightening roars, and under its waves it will bury great and little, and all who can escape the worldwide disaster, will rush for refuge in the caves of high mountains.

From there they will see a flood of fire come in order to reduce to ashes everyone who has escaped the fury of other elements. What panic there will be! What anguish! Oh, the wailing that will be heard everywhere! Who will escape those immense flames? No one, neither rich nor poor, nor prince nor vassal, nor young nor old.

Everything will burn – kings with their armies, cities with their fortifications, palaces with their tapestries – all will be fodder for those flaming volcanoes. A column of fire will run from east to west. It will mount to the highest and descend to the lowest places. It will track down everything and reduce it to ashes, even gold, silver, precious stones, rational creatures and brutes, fish, birds, the hills, the islands, and the mountains.

Thus the world will end with all its vanities. Is it possible, my soul, that this should be the end of everything created? Oh, what are we to say? Are there still men who thirst after rank and riches? Are there still fools who, unmindful of the last day of the world, surrender their lives to wicked desires?

Affective Acts

(1) Scorn – I do not want anything in this world. In this meditation God teaches me that I must regard all the things in this world as fleeting, as things that serve and belong to what is subject to decay and corruption. Therefore, I do not care for them. In due time they will be delivered over to flames. I do not care for them, nor do I value those things that may cause me to burn in the fire of hell.

(2) Resolution – The goods that will not burn in this fire are virtues. Therefore I want to amass these and treasure them. I will cultivate them with every effort and care. Help me, Jesus and Mary.

Second Point

Oh, what weeping there will be when the angel calls all the dead to judgment! Yes, after all the goods of the world are reduced to ashes, the voice of the angel will peal forth and say, "Arise ye dead and come to judgment." This awesome utterance will be heard in all the four corners of the world. It will be heard in Heaven, in Purgatory, and in hell. No one will be able to resist God's summons transmitted by His angel. We will all arise in the same bodies that we had, but not all in the same way.

Holy souls will come down in glory from above and will give a very sweet embrace to their bodies, which will join them forever. The body, clothed again in the four qualities of glory – [The qualities of glory possessed by the bodies of the elect on Judgment Day are: 1 – Impossibility, whereby they can no longer suffer; no sickness, no pain, nor any need of food, drink, rest, or anything else. 2 – Clarity, whereby they will shine like the sun and other heavenly bodies. 3 – Agility, whereby they will be able without effort to pass in a moment from one place to another and from earth to Heaven. 4 – Stability, whereby they can pass through any body without hindrance, as Christ did after His Resurrection.] – and the happy and blissful souls will bless one another.

"O happy feet," the soul will say, "which walked along the path of virtue! O blessed hands, which labored well! O blessed tongue, which spoke the truth and sang Divine praises! O all ye sense, which shunned evil and embraced righteousness; now you will receive the reward of mortification and penance. Now you will enjoy all delights and consolations. Now, my body, enjoy an eternal glory which eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has any mind been able to comprehend what God has prepared for His chosen ones."

"Bless you, O my soul!" the body will say, "May blessings be upon you, for you ruled and governed me; you taught me the way of holiness, you obliged me to keep the Commandments of God and the Church. Come, my faithful and happy companion! Come, let us together enjoy the reward of virtue. Let us unit to enjoy God forever!" In this way the just will speak.

But how different it will be with those who are condemned! What different greetings these doomed ones will exchange! Body and soul will gaze at one another, and seeing each other filthy, hideous, of frightening appearance, they will curse one another with rage and panic. "O hateful body!" the unhappy soul will say. "O bag of rottenness! Must I enter such a rotten prison? Must I be thrust into this slimy mass of filth? O cursed body! Because I gave you pleasure I see myself doomed! And you want me to keep you company? Go back to the grave, wretch, to be food for worms, and let me go alone to hell!"

"O treacherous soul!" the body will reply; "you are responsible for my ruin. Why did God make me except for you to rule over me? Should you not have mortified my animal appetites? Were you not bound to guide me along the way to Heaven? Then why did you let me run on the path of sin? O you cursed one, get out of my presence! I would rather see the devil than you!" In this way these former companions in sin will curse one another. They will hate to be joined who once loved each other in such a disorderly way. But they will have to unite, even though it grieves them.

This is the way the Resurrection of the Deal will take place. All the just, shining more brightly than the sun, and the condemned, more horrible than monsters, all will swiftly rise, with body and soul re-united, and then await the judgment of God.

Affective Acts

(1) Admiration – Yes, I am to rise again. And how will I rise? Will I be in the number of the just or will I be among those condemned? Look at your works and they will tell you.

(2) Resolution – My Lord and God, I detest and hate all my sins. I will strive from now on to do all the good works that I can; for they are what will help me on that fearful day. They are what will earn for me a victorious and glorious resurrection, in particular good Communions that are frequent and devout.

Third Point

Oh, what a dreadful judgment for some! What a consoling judgment for others! The Sovereign Judge will come down from on high with great splendor and majesty. The sight of Him will bring joy to the upright and terror to sinners.

Those who are saved will be placed at His right, and the others at His left. What distress, my soul, it will be for princes and lords of the world to see themselves put to shame and ranked with criminals and the lowest slaves!

What sweet consolation it will be for the poor little ones of the world to find themselves in the company of holy rulers of the earth and angels of Heaven!

How much do you think the wicked and proud Jezebel would give to see herself at the side of the humble, pious Esther? On that day how much do you think Julian the Apostate would give to be in the company of Ferdinand the Catholic? What would the treacherous Judas not do to be at the right of his Divine Master?

Oh, what panic there will be for the miserable ones who are doomed! What pitiful cries they will make! What will it be like when the consciences of each one are laid bare in the clearest way? What will it be like when the trickery, the cheating, the lies, the thefts, the vice, the murders, all the crimes of sinners are disclosed before all the world?

Ye holy Heavens, what a distressing humiliation it will be! What extreme anguish! Sinners will wail with frenzy; they will beg the mountains to fall upon them and bury them under the wreckage; but it will not help them at all. Much to their distress they will have to undergo the strict accounting God will demand of them.

"Listen, O men! Harken, ye tribes! Give ear, ye nations!! The Lord will say. "What should I have done for sinners that I did not do? I invited them peacefully. In My Mercy I called them. I delayed the rigors of My Justice, but the wretches remained ever obstinate in their sin.

"I spoke to them through preachers of My Gospel and admonished them through the ministers of penance. I threatened them with punishment. But these sinners disregarded both words of mercy as well as words about justice. I brought them forth from nothingness, preserved their life, redeemed them at the price of My Blood, but these ungrateful people abused these great benefits, outraged My Holy Name, and trampled on My Precious Blood. I held My peace at all this; I bore it all with much patience and for a long time awaited their conversion. But what has been the fruit of this long delay? It has been sin, injustice, vice, hatred, sacrilege, every kind of iniquity. Did you think I would be forever peacefully silent? Now, wielding My power, I will speak and I will make you burn in the deep pit. Go, ye accursed ones, into the eternal fire. Depart from Me forever."

Then, turning with a kind, peaceful look toward those who are saved, He will tell them: "You are My chosen portion, My glory and My crown. Though you were of the same flesh and blood as the doomed ones, you did not live as they did; for you ordered your lives according to My commandments and laws. You will enjoy My eternal reward. Come, ye blessed of My Father, to possess the kingdom which was prepared for you from the beginning of the world."

What different sentences, O my soul! Upon hearing the first sentence, those who are doomed will frantically wail. They will blaspheme against their parents and themselves; they will rave against everything; and while they are spitefully ranting, raving and despairing, they will fall like a thunderbolt into hell.

On hearing the second sentence, the just will pronounce a thousand blessings. They will bless their mortifications and toils; they will bless their faith, their hope, their charity and other virtues; and amid these blessings they will enter rejoicing into the possession of glory. Henceforth this group will be happy forever, whereas the other group will be unhappy forever. This group will enjoy immense favors, whereas the others will suffer infinite evils. This group, the elect, will ceaselessly enjoy all delights. Those who are doomed will experience all kinds of torment without relief.

Affective Acts

(1) Shame – Consider the shame which a person of rank suffers when his secret failings are made public before a great multitude. Now on Judgment Day the faults into which you have fallen in thought, word and deed will be made known to the whole world, unless you have made a good confession of them all; whereas if all your sins have been properly confessed, they remain forgiven, covered up, erased.

(2) Resolution – I resolve to make a good confession of all my sins, without hiding any on account of shame; for if I have this shame now and feel too ashamed to tell my sins to the Father confessor, what will be the shame on that day when the Lord will make public before all the world all my sins that have not been confessed or have been poorly confessed?

My desire, my will, is to sin no more, mortally or venially. I want to be upright and I will be, by the help of God. I will keep myself away from all sin; I will practice virtue; I will observe the holy law; I will follow the counsels of the Gospel; and I will frequently receive the holy Sacraments; I will be devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I will practice the seven Corporal Works of Mercy, which are – to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to harbor the harborless, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, to bury the dead. And I will practice the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy, which are – to convert the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the afflicted, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead.

Pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary.

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