BE READY FOR THE JUST JUDGEMENT OF GOD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ REV 18:1-2,21-23,19:1-3,9; LUKE 21:20-28 ]
Often when we look at our own situation and that of the world‘s, we feel that evil people seem to be better off than those who do good. The psalmist felt that way too, when he cried out to God. “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.[a] They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. This is what the wicked are like – always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” (Ps 73:3-5,12) But the truth is that a day of retribution will come, either in this life or in the next. “Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!” (Ps 73:18f)
Indeed, this was what happened, first to Jerusalem and then to Rome. In the gospel, Jesus prophesied the eventual destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the city. “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate. For this is the time of vengeance when all that scripture says must be fulfilled. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come! They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every pagan country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the pagans until the age of the pagans is completely over.” Jerusalem was destroyed and punished by the Romans for their rebellion and refusal to submit to the Roman culture. Everyone in the city was killed when Emperor Titus entered the City in AD 70.
What happened to Jerusalem also happened to Rome, which was symbolised by Babylon because of the wickedness of the city, their persecution of Christians and a culture that was sensual and idolatrous. In the first reading, we read of the judgement on Rome. “At the top of his voice (the angel) shouted, ‘Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, ‘That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again.'”
However, those who are good, as the responsorial psalm says, will be invited to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. “Happy are those who are invited to the wedding-feast of the Lamb.” Who are those who are invited to the Wedding Feast? The psalmist says, those who “Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing for joy. Know that he, the Lord, is God. He made us, we belong to him, we are his people, the sheep of his flock. Go within his gates, giving thanks. Enter his courts with songs of praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.” Indeed, for us we should remain firm in our faith, stand firm for the Lord so that the Lord will reward us and bring us to Him when the day of judgement arrives. Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.”
What is definite is that God will deliver us from our enemies and set us free. This is what the martyrs sang, “Victory and glory and power to our God!” They knew that only God could set them free from the hands of their enemies. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, God has delivered us from our foes and most of all from death. Grateful for this liberation, we have reason to rejoice in the victory of God. He could do all this only because of His power over the whole of creation. God is in charge of this world and the power of His love and justice makes it possible to win victory over evil.
Hence, we can sing praise to God because we know that His judgement is fair and just. “Alleluia! He judges fairly, he punishes justly.” Only God can judge our thoughts, the circumstances of our actions, and our intentions. He takes into consideration all that we were and are and do when He judges. Very often, our actions today are influenced and conditioned by our past hurts and mistakes, by our upbringing and the events, positive or negative in our lives. When God judges, He exercises compassion by considering everything about us and in our life. He judges with the purity of love without prejudice or revengefulness. That is why His judgement is fair and just. Unlike God, human judgement is partial even when we seek to be true and objective. We do not know all the facts of the situation or the interior thoughts and struggles of the person. Furthermore, we are always working within the constraints of the laws. And if it affects us, we tend to allow our personal interests to blind us to the objectivity of our judgements.
However, until that happens, we must continue to hold firm to our faith, and whilst being faithful, we should not be reckless. Being faithful does not mean that we go headlong in confronting our enemies. This was what the Lord advised His followers. “Then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in country districts must not take refuge in it.” Our Lord Himself withdrew when He knew His enemies were plotting to kill Him before His mission was well established. “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place.” (Mt 12:14f) So, too, the disciples of Jesus withdrew when the time came so that they could continue to spread the Word of God to other places.
To stand up for our faith does not mean that we take unnecessary risks. But when called upon to do so, we must be ready to die for our faith. This was the case of the early Christians and martyrs who died for the faith when persecuted by the Romans. They were ready to be tortured by their enemies. We read of the courageous faith of the Korean and Japanese martyrs as well. Many of them were tortured to death, dying for Christ. Such was the outstanding faith of the martyrs. That is why the Church gives special honour to the martyrs in the celebration of the Eucharist because they joined Jesus in death and in life.
How, then, can we remain faithful and stand erect whilst waiting for the day of liberation? We must seek to be true to our conscience in living out our responsibilities in life. We have all been given different roles in life. Whether we are homemakers, parents, professionals, workers or religious, we must undertake our responsibilities well. Life is to follow Jesus in giving ourselves to others in service and love. We need to offer ourselves, like St Paul, as a libation for others. If we do that, then we can then say with St Paul, “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:6-8)
Secondly, we need to be watchful through study of scripture, prayer, celebration of the sacraments, worship of the Eucharist and sharing of the Word of God with our fellow Catholics. Without constant prayer, strengthened by the Eucharist and the Word of God, we will not be able to withstand the trials of the apostolate. The reason why many Catholics not only do not stand up for their beliefs but even publicly oppose Catholic beliefs and doctrines is because they do not know their faith enough to be able to discern the truth from half-truths. They are easily bought over by secular views and those that oppose the Catholic teachings. But if we are well grounded in the Word of God, in our relationship with the Lord, we will be ready to defend the Church as St Peter exhorts us, “Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Pt 3:14f)
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.