Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How we mark time reveals where and with whom we live. We mark family time by celebrating birthdays and the anniversaries of important events like marriages and deaths. We mark our time as citizens by campaigns and elections along with civic holidays to honor heroes and events, like declaring independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. We mark our time as believers in following the liturgical calendar, celebrating the events by which Christ saves us and noting the anniversaries of the deaths of his saints, our brothers and sisters. The purpose of the liturgical calendar is to help us live with God, in his kingdom now and forever.

People move publicly out of God’s kingdom when they stop going to church and no longer celebrate the feasts of the church. A baptismal certificate is a passport to heaven, because it enables us to worship God now in spirit and in truth. The gift of God’s grace has to be lived in time, however, or one risks being denied entrance to God’s eternal kingdom when we are judged by Christ, both at our death and when he comes again in glory at the end of time. This judgment is being celebrated in worship now, at the end of the church’s liturgical year and as we enter the season of Advent.

Why celebrate judgment? Because of the judge, Christ himself, and the company in which we find ourselves when, at the end of our time and the end of the world, we meet the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints. Reflecting once about our seeing Mary in communion with her divine Son, Pope Benedict XVI said: “The simple and multiform light of God appears to us exactly in its variety and richness only in the countenance of the saints, who are the true mirrors of his light. And it is precisely by looking at Mary’s face that we can see more clearly than in any other way the beauty, goodness and mercy of God. In her face we can truly perceive the divine light.”

At the time of judgment, we will see God’s friends and hope now to be numbered among them. “His servants shall worship him: they will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever” (Rv 22: 3- 5).

At the time of judgment we will also be able to see God’s own justice revealed. Our personal history will take its place in the story of the human race, and we will be able to see how God has drawn good out of evil and how everything fits together with more than human purpose. The universe did not come to be through chance and it will not end by chance. Our desire to know why events unfold as they do, our desire to be enveloped in the act of restoring what is right when human justice fails, is another reason to celebrate God’s judgment. St. Peter, in his second letter (3:7) wrote: “The present heavens and earth are reserved by God’s word for fire; they are kept for the day of judgment, the day when godless men will be destroyed.”

We can truly look forward to God’s judgment if we become saints. Saints live now with God from day to day, and they have already an intuition of how God sees and judges persons and events. Throughout the month of November, I read the petitions sent by many in the archdiocese, desires that are to be brought to prayer. It is moving and humbling to bring to the Lord the love so many show for their spouses, their parents and children and friends who are ill or in need or whose faith is in danger. At this time of the liturgical year, we should all pray to live long enough to become saints.