Strength of Faith.
“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.â€
We are at the end of our Ordinary Time reflection on Strength of Faith. Our call to growth in strength of faith is unending â€“ we need to work at it from minute-to-minute; that must not stop. Today we focus on what comes next. What is the outcome for those who are growing ever stronger in faith?
The concept of Christâ€™s return, the end of the ages, the final judgment is difficult for us.Â It may be in part because of what we do not know (especially the where and when). The bigger difficulty is our awareness that Godâ€™s justice must be satisfied, that we will have to stand before the whole world and be judged, our sins and failings laid bare. That freaks us out!
Of course, people have been playing on the final judgment for centuries. It ranges from freaky visions of the Blessed Mother appearing over tress and hills with dire warnings to certain people who tell us they have seen visions of the end â€“ and we are all going to hell.
Human guilt is used as a powerful motivator to instill fear and to elicit, not necessarily change of behavior, but to engage in a sort of slavery to fear itself or to those who purvey fear. Unfortunately, some churches lead their members to a rollercoaster of fear and dread.
The life for those who are strong in faith is never one of fear and dread. Certainly, we are aware of our accountability before God. We sense our guilt, confess our sin, and resolve to re-enter the path of sanctification over-and-over. When we fall, we know that Jesus is there to lift us up and we do not take His mercy and helpful grace for granted.
The outcome for those who are strong in faith is right there in scripture:Â the angelsÂ [will] gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
Listen to the words of our prayers, the Propers of todayâ€™s Holy Mass. We hear words like incorruptible, delight, hope that lies beyond, eternal, and to â€œstand in peace and safety.â€ That is what awaits those strong in faith.
We see that the promise of our journey of growth in strength of faith is not fear but rather its opposite â€“ confidence in victory. What Jesus Christ, our Lord, and very particularly our Savior has promised us will occur. We will be gathered in, we will undergo judgment, and we will rejoice in the heavenly kingdom. As Daniel heard, we will shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and shall be like the stars forever.