So I was getting into a blogging slump after neglecting this page for the past few months. I’m sure I will publish another blog soon about the many adventures, joys and challenges of moving continents, learning a new language, getting married and adapting to a whole new culture. But that is for another day.
Yesterday in mass, the priest said something that struck me deeply. It was one of those words-to-heart moments, where I desperately wanted a pen and paper to capture the truth of his words, but also the eloquence with which he spoke.
But since I didn’t want to look like a news reporter in the second pew, scratching down the whole homily (although I probably would have done it… I just didnt have paper), I asked the Holy Spirit instead to help me remeber later.
This prayer came true, although I will never fully capture the beauty of his homily that Sunday. But I will do my best to relay the message and how it spoke to my heart. He was speaking about judgment, death and the final things as they are called in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Father spoke about final judgment before God. He wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about the word judgment. He said, ” God isn’t like Donald Trump, who gives you a thumbs up or thumbs down into heaven or not” (!!). Judgment is not about being liked or disliked by God. God is love (1 John 4:8). God is only capable of love, so there is no way he can just unlike you or hold a grudge against you for all time. That would completly contradict his nature, and who He is. Father went on to say that when we die, and we stand before God, we are standing before truth itself. God isn’t something we can fully grasp. He is not bound by time or space, but He is a presence, and he is thee Divine. We, are not divine. We are poor and weak humans. I mean, if we weren’t sinners, we wouldn’t need God. So our weakness is not totally terrible, but rather it helps us find a complete dependence upon our Heavenly Father (our Dad, Pops, Papa). So standing before God after we die, and seeing own unworthiness before our Father, is judgment. It makes sense. If we look at the sun for too long, we have to turn away, squint, or groan a little because it pierces our eyes. It is too strong, and too bright for us to fully observe. How much more is the brightness of our Eternal Father ( Beatific Vision) going to shine? If He is love, truth, justice, kindness, honesty and mercy itself, and we poor sinners stand in front of Him, we cannot hide our sins any longer. I know that I, and most of us, try to hide the dark areas of our heart. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge them. After death, in front of our Heavenly Father, we can’t ‘play that game anymore’ as the priest so nicely put it.
So justice with the eyes of faith isn’t limited to Judge Judy, Donald Trump or harsh penalties. Rather, its simply seeing ourselves for the first time, as God sees us. Realizing the areas that we chose to serve ourselves, rather than God and our neighbor. God already sees and knows our sins. He knows us far better then we know ourselves. So its not a surprise to God, but perhaps it will be a surprise to us.
The really wonderful news, is that we have the rest of our lifetime to work on seeing our hearts, minds, and souls, as God does. Through the eyes of truth and mercy. God doesn’t want us to feel trapped in the darkness of our sin. He did not intend a life of bondage for us. Although life has its many challenges and we have our crosses to carry (habitual sins, addictions, broken families, physical and mental illness etc), we are capable of conforming our hearts to His. This is possible because God sent his Son Jesus to show us the way. That is why in John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. So yes, judgment is the full realization of our sins and our failings, but it’s also being looked at with the merciful eyes of the Trinity; Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. We must always keep justice and mercy together.
This homily on death and judment has inspired me to continue pursuing a life of virtue and prayer. I fail in this area so many times, but I am comforted to know I serve a merciful Father. When I stand before God, when my earthly life has ended, I want to present him a heart that was honestly trying. A heart that let Christ in. A heart that allowed Jesus to reign and conquer those spaces of darkness. A heart that kept repenting, desiring and striving for holiness. I really think thats why God gave us the saints, his Holy Mother and the Church. He has given us the tools, the role models and the means to walk this path in faith. What a gift it is.
This morning while looking at the daily mass readings, I was reflecting on the Gospel; the beheading of John the Baptist. I began thinking about the sins that lead up to the murder of this holy man. In the end it had me thinking about sinfulness in general. Even if we arent committing murder, all sins share a common ground of darkness; lies, deceit, selfish gain, pride. This can happen in the darkness of our hearts and minds, but very often sinful behaviour is a nighttime “activity”. My mom always said ” nothing good happens after midnight”. She really has a point there. People often commit crimes or engange in sinful behaviour in the darkness. Trying to hide away behind the curtain of the night. Pornographic images lighting up a dark bedroom, break ins happening as other sleep, prostitution taking place under the street lights, one night stands in a dark and dingy dorm room.
But the whole point of this post is to speak about the fact that we are:
“Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness” – Romans 6:18
When I read this verse it just hit me so clearly. We are called to be a slave to righteousness! A flame in the darkness. A word of truth in lies. A model of the beautitudes. A radical follower of Jesus. The Lord doesn’t want us to remain in the dark. That’s why he use countless parables about darkness and light. It’s not just a nice literary detail. It’s literal. We need to stop sinning in the darkness. Now, this definitely doesn’t mean the struggle of sin is instantly over. No! The fight goes on. Every. Single. Person. is in this battle. Our sinful habits are different. No use in comparing or judging each other in them. If we only see the sins of others, it probably time to re-read Matthew 7:3 (log in our eye & speck in our brothers). We need to bring ourselves, our baggage, our trials and sins to the foot of the cross. Beside Mary who remained at the cross, we can lay our burdens down. We entrust all our weakness to Him who takes our sin and gives abundant freedom. The more we come to the cross, the more we enter into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. He knew what struggles we would face, and he gave us somewhere to bring them. Only then can we walk away in the light of His truth, lighter, free from chains and hopeful in our steadfast refuge.
I’ll end with the song that also motivated this post. I don’t know if I should admit how many times I listened to it on repeat this morning!
Do we really trust God? How do we perceive God the Father? Jesus, his Son? Do we believe that the Father is more harsh, radical and prone to judgement than Jesus? Why? How do we let these ideas of the Father and Son impact our own spiritual lives? How does Jesus reveal the Heart of His Father?
These are but a few of the many wise, powerful and thought provoking themes that came about in Dr. Tim Gray’s talk, “Can you trust God?”.
I would like to highlight Dr. Gray’s call to repair our false and misleading perception of the Father and his Son. He writes that a lot of people, and especially Christians “… believe that God became merciful and God the Father has to have mercy on us because Jesus died on the cross. In other words, we think that God’s merciful because Jesus died in atonement for our sins on the cross. But thats wrong. It’s not the cross that makes God merciful. It’s because God the Father is merciful. That he gave his son on the cross to save us. The cross doesn’t change God. It’s who God is. For all eternity. God is loving and God is merciful. What the cross is supposed to change is not God’s mind, but ours. Because throughout salvation history, we didn’t trust God… the cross is supposed to change our minds, not God’s...”He continues on to say that “…we have to deconstruct this false image of the Father”.
Dr. Gray then leads us to Exodus 34:6-7, where God is revealed as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and faithfulness, keeping merciful love for thousands, forgiving iniquities, transgressions and sins, but by no means clear the guilty.
God reveals these 7 attributes that truly speak to the depths of who He is; merciful, all-forgiving, loving and compassionate. Often we only focus upon the final attribute which is only meant to remind of us the severity of not asking for forgiveness. If we ask, our sin are always forgiven.
It is extremely destructive when we misunderstand who God the Father is. We also misunderstand who Jesus is, and ultimately we begin to distrust our own heavenly Father. Jesus is not the “good cop” and the Father the “bad cop” (using the example of Dr. Gray). Everything that Jesus did, was in accordance with the will of the Father:
” I am not alone, because the Father is with me” John 16:32
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:9
” No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6
Jesus was sent on earth to reveal the heart and the will of the Father. God freely gave his Son to humanity. When we realize the depths of the Father’s love, and mercy, we have every reason to trust in Him. The Old Testament stories often depict the Father as harsh, but a father is always in charge of correcting and leading his children in LOVE. Why do we forget all the accounts of God’s incredible and beautiful mercy that precedes and follows these actions of correction? We need the whole story. We need to bring back the Father and the Son and the Spirit to fully understand salvation history. This love story is mind blowing. It’s not a fictional account, or a nice set of stories. This is real. The Father has given us, you, me, and all mankind his own Son. Let us contemplate and enter into that truth this day! Thank you Eternal Father, for the gift of your merciful heart in which you have always bestowed on your people.