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Homily for 3/2/08 - LJ - The Last Judgment

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 25:31-46 There are no end, it seems to the predictions of doom. The world will end we are told by some in an overheated greenhouse of our own creation.
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2008
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      Matt 25:31-46

      There are no end, it seems to the predictions of doom. The world will
      end we are told by some in an overheated greenhouse of our own creation.
      The ice caps will melt, the oceans will rise, there will be floods and
      disasters. The ecosystem will be polluted and ruined and food will be
      scarce. The only living things to survive will be cockroaches. Others
      warn that we will annihilate ourselves with nuclear weapons, poisoning
      the atmosphere and raising a cloud of dust so great that it will bring
      on another ice age. What isn’t destroyed by war will slowly die off from
      disease and hunger. It seems that every day there is a new pandemic
      threatening us or some new terrorist threat arising. It seems as though
      the whole world has gone mad and everyone is intent on destroying
      everyone else.

      In the midst of all this, our Lord reminds us that the world will indeed
      come to an end and that the signs of that end will be “agitation, wars,
      civil war, hunger, earthquakes… Men will suffer from fear, and will die
      from expectation of calamity. There will be no life, no joy of life…
      There will also be a falling away from faith such that ‘when the Son of
      Man cometh shall he find faith upon the earth?’ (Lk 18:8) Men will
      become proud, ungrateful, rejecting Divine Law. And there will be also
      be a weakening of moral life. There will be an exhaustion of good and an
      increase of evil.” (St John of Shanghai and San Francisco). All of this
      precedes the second coming of Christ and the final and Great Judgment.
      As terrible as the condition of the world at the end sounds, it is only
      the prelude to what we will experience standing naked and exposed before
      God.

      But all is not lost! There is hope even for us. God has given us this
      warning not so that we would fall into terror and despair, but rather
      that we might in all sobriety begin to prepare for that inevitable day
      when we will stand before Him. It is true that all things shall be
      revealed and we will be seen by God as we are, and yet there is time to
      acquire the Holy Spirit and to cloth ourselves in the grace that God
      gives. In this way we will no longer be alienated from God but we will
      be united with Him. His presence will not bring us terror but rather
      great joy. We will not shrink from Him but we will run to Him and
      embrace Him.

      Today, as we prepare for Great Lent, our annual ascetic effort we pause
      to remember the Great Judgment. We are reminded that we will indeed meet
      God face to face, that there is no avoiding this Judgment. This reminder
      is given to us so that as we enter Great Lent, we might have some
      awareness of the task that we undertake. This is an annual time of
      sobriety and of ascetic struggle so that we might more easily lay aside
      our attachment to the things of this world – its pleasures and its
      sufferings – and instead focus on nurturing in ourselves the life that
      Christ gives to us. This is what we do when we fast. The end of Great
      Lent is Holy Week which leads us through the experience of Jesus
      Christ’s suffering, betrayal, trial, crucifixion, death and burial. We
      do not only watch as spectators, but as participants in the life of
      Christ we too suffer with Him, we ascend the Cross with Him, we die and
      are buried with Him. All this is necessary so that we might rise with
      Him and live in Him.

      During the fast, we die – a little at a time – to this life. We set
      aside all but the bare necessities of life. We eat simply without luxury
      and in limited quantity in order to learn that our true sustenance is
      from God. We set aside worldly entertainments so that we might focus our
      attention and energies on our own spiritual growth and development. We
      pray more so that we might become more sensitive to the presence of God
      in our lives. Little by little, as Lent progresses, we die to the world
      that we might live with Christ.

      St John describes the scene to us: The end of the world and the coming
      of the Great Judgment will be signified by appearance of the sign of the
      Son of God – that is the sign of the Cross. “The end of the world
      signifies not the annihilation of the world, but its transformation.
      Everything will be transformed suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye. The
      dead will rise in new bodies: their own, but renewed, Just as the Savior
      rose in His own body and on it were traces of wounds from the nails and
      spear, yet it possessed new faculties and in this sense it was a new body.

      “And the Lord will appear in glory on the clouds. Trumpets will sound:
      loud and with power! They will sound in the soul and the conscience! All
      will become clear to the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel speaking
      of the Last Judgment, relates how the Ancient of days, the Judge, sits
      on his throne, and before Him is a fiery stream. Fire is a purifying
      element; it burns sin. Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his
      nature: then the fire will burn the man himself.”

      Sin finds its way into our nature and settles there like a parasite. If
      that sin is not rooted out, it becomes a part of us and invades our
      whole being. When we will be exposed to the river of fire at the Last
      Judgment that sin will burn – and if it is an integral part of our
      nature, we too will burn with it. But we are given the ability, the
      opportunity and the resources by God to root out that sin, to remove it
      from our soul – even if it is already attached itself to us. The grace
      of God that is poured out upon us is an effective medicine to loosen the
      hold of sin upon us so that it no longer dominates and controls us and
      we can turn away from it and eliminate it from ourselves. This we do by
      repentance and confession of sin. While the grace of God cuts off the
      hold of sin on us, we too must loosen our hold on the sin. This we do by
      ascetic labor, by fasting, by self denial, by repentance and by
      heartfelt prayer. These are the activities of Great Lent that we engage
      in. These activities lead us to the Cross of Christ, they lead us to
      death. But death does not annihilate us, but rather it transforms us.
      Death is not the end of life, but rather the door to the Resurrection;
      the door to our new life.

      Just as those who are infested with sin will be burned by the river of
      fire, those who are united to the grace of God will be warmed and
      ignited by the river of fire so that we will become radiant and glowing
      as gold glows in the refiner’s fire. The fire will not burn us, but will
      enter into us and enlighten us and empower us and fill us with the
      warmth and heat of God’s love. Indeed this river is not fire at all, but
      the love of God which burns away impurity and which warms the very
      essence of those who are already filled with the love of God.

      Great Lent is a preparation for the Great and final Judgment. In that
      day we will meet God face to face, we will pass through the river of the
      fire of God’s love. If we are filled with sin, we will be burned by the
      fire of that love, but if we are filled with grace, that love will fill
      us and will warm us and will become the means by which we are united
      with God. That love will become the life of Christ in us and as we are
      ready to participate in that love, so also we will participate in the
      life of the Holy Trinity. During Great Lent we will come finally to the
      cross of Christ, we will come finally to our own death. But the cross is
      not the end, but rather we will pass through the cross, through death,
      through hades and on to the triumph of the Glorious Resurrection and we
      will rise with Christ to new life in Him.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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