Father Cantalamessa on Judgment Day

Reflections on Readings for Feast of Christ the King

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In his commentary on the liturgical readings on the feast of Christ the King, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, reflects on the day of judgment.

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We have reached the last Sunday of the liturgical year, in which we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. The Gospel presents to us the last act of history: the universal judgment.

What a difference there is between this scene and that of Christ before his judges in his passion! Then, all were seated and he standing in chains; now all are standing, and he is seated on the throne. Men and history judge Christ: on that day, Christ will judge men and history. Before him is decided who remains standing and who falls. This is the immutable faith of the Church which in her creed proclaims: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” and “his kingdom will have no end.”

Today’s Gospel also tells us how the judgment will take place: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” What will happen, therefore, to those who not only did not give food to those who were hungry, but also took food away from them; not only did not welcome the stranger, but were the cause of his becoming a stranger.

This does not just affect some criminals. It is possible that a general atmosphere of impunity is established, in which there are competitions to break the law, to corrupt or allow oneself to be corrupted, with the justification that everyone does it. However, the law was never abolished. Suddenly, the day comes when an investigation gets underway and a disaster happens, as the one that took place in Italy with [the] “Clean Hands” [anti-corruption campaign].

But, is not this, in a certain sense, the situation in which we all live, those investigated and the investigators, before the law of God? One after the other, the commandments are calmly broken, including the one that states “Thou shall not kill” (to say nothing of the one that says “Thou shall not commit adultery”) with the pretext that everyone does it, that culture, progress and even human law, now allow it. But God has never thought of abolishing the commandments or the Gospel, and this general feeling of security is no more than a fatal deception.

Some years ago, Michelangelo’s fresco of the universal judgment was restored. But there is another universal judgment that must be restored: It is not painted on brick walls, but on the hearts of Christians. It has become totally discolored and is being turned into ruins.

“The beyond and, with it, the judgment has become a joke, something so uncertain that one is amused to think that there was a time in which this idea transformed the whole of human existence,” said Soren Kierkegaard. There are those who might wish to console themselves, saying that, after all, the day of judgment is very far off, perhaps millions of years away. But, from the Gospel, Jesus responds: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:20).

The topic of the judgment is interlaced in the liturgy of today with that of Jesus the good shepherd. The responsorial psalm says: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want, fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose” (Psalm 22:1-2). The meaning is clear: Now Christ reveals himself to us as the good shepherd; one day he will be obliged to be our judge. Now is the time of mercy, then it will be the time of justice. It is for us to choose, while we still have time.

[Italian original published in Famiglia Cristiana; translation by ZENIT]

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