Article 87 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
“The Last Judgment”
Paragraphs 1038-1065 When most of us think about Jesus, our thoughts jump to the gospel passages that describe Our Lord’s First Coming into the world some 2,000 years ago. In the third Eucharistic Prayer at Mass, however, we are reminded of the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time, when Christ will come again in glory to make his final judgement on the living and the dead. Following the consecration and the proclamation of the mystery of faith, the priest prays the following to God, Our Father: “… as we look forward to his Second Coming, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.” What will happen at the Second Coming of Christ? When will his Second Coming take place?
We get the answer to the second question from Sacred Scripture, as follows: “no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” ( Mt 24:36) . The Catechism affirms this: “We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed” (ccc 1048).
The first question pertaining to what will happen when Christ comes the second time deserves more explanation. Most of the information regarding this aspect of our faith is revealed to us through the “deposit of faith” which Christ left us, including the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Church. What we do know includes what St. Luke tells us in his gospel: “They shall see the Son of Man coming upon a cloud with great power and majesty” ( Lk 21:27 ). Christ also speaks of the final judgment in the clearest terms. “The Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of His Father, and then he will render to everyone according to his conduct” ( Mt 16:27 ). Jesus tells the parable
of the weeds among the wheat to make clear the idea of the Last Judgment. He explains that the sower is the Son of Man and the field is the world. The good seeds are the children of God’s kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one. The harvest day is the final day. Like weeds, the children of the evil one will be gathered and burned; like the good wheat, the children of God will be gathered into His heavenly barn. This parable provides a graphic picture of the topic we are considering. Later we see the apostles teaching what Jesus taught. St. Peter says: “He [Christ] charged us to preach to the people and to testify that he it is who has been appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead” ( Acts 10:42 ). No doubt, for 2,000 years, the followers of Christ have believed in this final day of reck- oning. The Catechism tells us that “the resurrection of all the dead, ‘of both the just and the unjust,’ will precede the Last Judgment. This will be the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (ccc 1038).
The Catechism continues: “In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each person’s relationship with God will be laid bare (see John 12:49). The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good people have done or failed to do during their earthly life” (ccc 1039). The remainder of this section of the Catechism helps offer more clarity about the details of the Last Judgment. For example, at the Last Judgment, we shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and all the details of salvation including how “God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death” (ccc 1040). As well, this will be the time when “the Kingdom of God will come in its
fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign fore v e r w i t h C h r i s t , g l o r i fied in body and soul. The universe itself will also be re- newed” (ccc 1042) or “transformed” (ccc 1047). In other words, “together with the human race, the universe itself…will be perfectly re-established in Christ” (ccc 1042). Sacred Scripture refers to this mysterious renewal or transformation as “new heavens and a new earth” ( 2 Pt 3:13; see also Rev 21:1 ).
Following the Last Judgment, “those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, ‘the holy city’ of God” (ccc 1045). Humanity will no longer be wounded by the sin or selfishness that destroys or injures the earthly community. “The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion” (ccc 1045).
Isn’t it true that the common desire most of us have would be that this “ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion” would come about soon? This same desire, though, has existed since the first disciples walked the earth some 2,000 years ago. Perhaps we, today, will need to wait another 2,000 years before Christ comes again! Let us pray wholeheartedly that he comes sooner.
Father Hillier serves as Director of the Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Censor Librorum and oversees the Office for Persons with Disabilities