Jesus Christ, our Judge - by MEMLING, Hans - from Muzeum Narodowe, Gdansk
Give an Account of thy Stewardship - Luke 16:2
What is the Particular Judgment?
The First (1st) Judgment is by Jesus alone, and takes place Immediately after our Death. This Judgment is termed Particular Judgment, and is the Subject-of Saint Alphonsus' Sermon presented below.
The Second (2nd) Judgment, depicted above by Memling, takes place at the End of Time; during which we are Judged, Body and Soul, in Front-of all Creation. This Judgment is termed General Judgment, or as it is more commonly known, the Last Judgment.
It is the Common Opinion of Theologians, that, at the very Moment and in the very 'Place' in which the Soul Departs-from the Body, the Divine Tribunal is Erected, the Accusation is Read, and the Sentence is Passed by Jesus Christ, the Judge. At this Terrible Tribunal each of us shall be Presented, to give an Account-of all our Thoughts, of all our Words, and of all our Actions. "For we must all be Manifested before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that every One may Receive the Proper Things of the Body, according as he hath done, whether it be Good or Evil" - 2Corinthians 5:10. When Presented before an Earthly Judge, Criminals have been seen to Fall-into a Cold Sweat through Fear. It is related of Piso, that so Great and Insufferable was the Confusion which he felt at the Thought-of appearing as a Criminal before the Senate, that he Killed himself. How Great is the Pain of a Vassal, or of a Son, in Appearing-before an Angry Prince or an Enraged Father, to Account-for some Crime which he has committed! Oh! how much Greater shall be the Pain and Confusion of the Soul in Standing-before Jesus Christ, Enraged against Her for having Despised Him during Her Life! Speaking of Judgment, Saint Luke says: "And then they shall see the Son of Man" - Luke 21:27. They shall see Jesus Christ as Man, with the same Wounds with which He Ascended-into Heaven. "Great Joy of the Beholders!", says Robert the Abbot, "Great Terror of those who are in Expectation!" These Wounds shall Console the Just, and shall Terrify the Wicked. In them, Sinners shall see the Redeemer's Love for themselves, and their Ingratitude to Him.
"Who", says the Prophet Nahum, "can Stand-before the Face of His Indignation? and who shall Resist-in the Fierceness of His Anger? His Indignation is Poured-out like Fire: and the Rocks are Melted by Him". How Great, then, shall be the Terror of a Soul that finds Herself in Sin, before this Judge, the First (1st) Time She shall see Him, and shall see Him Full-of Wrath! Saint Basil says that She shall be Tortured more by Her Shame and Confusion, than by the very Fire of Hell. "Horridior quam ignis, erit pudor". Philip the Second Rebuked one of his Domestics for having told him a Lie. "Is it thus", said the King to him, "you Deceive me?" The Domestic, after having returned home, Died of Grief. The Scripture tells us, that when Joseph Reproved his Brethren, saying: "I am Joseph, whom you sold", they were Unable-to Answer through Fear, and remained Silent. "His Brethren could not Answer him, being Struck with exceeding Great Fear" - Genesis 45:3. Now, what answer shall Sinners make to Jesus Christ, when He shall say to them: I am your Redeemer and your Judge, Whom you have so much Despised! Where shall the Miserable beings Fly, says Saint Augustine, when they shall see an Angry Judge above, Hell open below, on One Side their own Sins Accusing them, and on the other, the Devils dragging them to Punishment, and their Conscience Burning them Within? "Above shall be an Enraged Judge; below a Horrid Chaos; on the Right, Sins accusing him; on the Left, Demons dragging him to Punishment; within, a Burning Conscience. Whither shall a Sinner, Beset in this manner, Fly?" Perhaps he will Cry for Mercy? But how, asks Eusebius Emissenus, can he Dare-to Implore Mercy, when he must First Render an Account-of his Contempt for the Mercy, which Jesus Christ has shown to him? "With what Face will you, who are to be First Judged for Contempt of Mercy, Ask for Mercy?" But let us come to the Rendering-of the Accounts.
Second (2nd) Point
As soon as the Soul shall be Presented-before the Tribunal of Jesus Christ, He will say to Her: "Give an Account of thy Stewardship"; Render Instantly an Account of Thy entire Life. The Apostle tells us, that to be Worthy-of Eternal (∞) Glory, our Lives must be found Conformable-to the Life-of Jesus Christ. "For whom He Foreknew, He also Predestinated to be made Conformable to the Image of His Son; that He might be the Firstborn amongst many Brethren. And whom He Predestinated, them He also Called. And whom He Called, them He also Justified. And whom He Justified, them He also Glorified" - Romans 8:29-30. Hence Saint Peter has said, that in the Judgment of Jesus Christ, the Just Man, who has Observed the Divine Law, has Pardoned Enemies, has Respected the Saints, has Practiced Chastity, Meekness, and other Virtues, shall Scarcely be Saved. "The Just Man shall Scarcely be Saved". The Apostle adds: "And if the Just Man shall Scarcely be Saved, where shall the Ungodly and the Sinner appear?" - 1Peter 4:18. What shall become of the Vindictive and the Unchaste, of Blasphemers, and Slanderers? What shall become of those whose entire Life is Opposed to the Life-of Jesus Christ?
In the First (1st) Place, the Judge shall Demand-of Sinners an Account-of all the Blessings and Graces which He Bestowed-upon them, in-order-to Bring them to Salvation, and which they have Rendered Fruitless. He will Demand an Account-of the Years granted-to them, that they might Serve God, and which they have Spent-in Offending Him. "He hath Called against me the Time" - Lamentations 1:15. He will then Demand an Account-of their Sins. Sinners commit Sins, and afterwards Forget them; but Jesus Christ does not Forget them; He keeps, as Job says, all our Iniquities Numbered, as it were in a Bag. "Thou hast Sealed up my Offences, as it were in a Bag" - Job 14:17. And He tells us that, on the Day of Accounts, He will take a Lamp to Scrutinize all the Actions of our Life. "And it shall come to pass at that Time, that I will Search Jerusalem with Lamps" - Sophonias (Zephaniah) 1:12. The Lamp, says Mendoza on this Passage, Penetrates all the Corners of the House - that is, God will Discover all the Defects of our Conscience, Great and Small. According to Saint Anselm, an Account shall be Demanded-of every Glance of our Eyes. "Exigitur usque ad ictum oculi". And according to Saint Matthew, of every Idle Word. "But I say unto you, that every Idle Word that Men shall Speak, they shall Render an Account for it in the Day of Judgment" - Matthew 12:36.
The Prophet Malachi says, that as Gold is Refined-by taking-away the Dross, so on the Day of Judgment, all our Actions will be Examined; and every Defect which may be Discovered, shall be Punished. "And He shall Purify the Sons of Levi, and shall Refine them as Gold, and as Silver" - Malachi 3:3. Even our Justices - that is, our Good Works, Confessions, Communions, and Prayers - shall be Examined. "When I shall take a Time, I will Judge Justices" - Psalm 74:3. But if every Glance, every Idle Word, and even Good Works, shall be Judged, with what Rigor shall Immodest Expressions, Blasphemies, Grievous Detractions, Thefts, and Sacrileges, be Judged? Alas! on that Day every Soul shall, as Saint Jerome says, see to Her own Confusion, all the Evils which She has done. "Videbit unusquisque quod fecit".
"Weight and Balance are Judgments of the Lord" - Proverbs 16:11. In the Balance-of the Lord, a Holy Life and Works make the Scale descend; but Nobility, Wealth, and Science have no Weight. Hence, if found Innocent, the Peasant, the Poor, and the Ignorant shall be Rewarded. But the Man of-Rank, of-Wealth, or of-Learning, if found Guilty, shall be Condemned. "Thou art Weighed in the Balance", said Daniel to Balthassar, "and art Found Wanting" - Daniel 5:27. "Neither his Gold, nor his Wealth", says Father Alvares, "but the King alone, was Weighed".
At the Divine Tribunal, the Poor Sinner shall see himself Accused-by the Devil, who according to Saint Augustine, "will Recite the Words of our Profession, and will Charge us before our Face with all that we have done, will State the Day and Hour in which we have Sinned". He will Recite the Words of our Profession; that is, he will Enumerate the Promises which we have made to God, and which we Afterwards Violated. He will Charge us before our Face; he will Upbraid us with all our Wicked Deeds, Pointing-to the Day and Hour in which they were committed. And he will, as the same Saint says, conclude his Accusation by saying: "I have Suffered neither Stripes nor Scourges for this Man". Lord, I have Suffered Nothing for this Ungrateful Sinner, and to make himself my Slave, he has Turned his Back on Thee, Who hast Endured so much, for his Salvation. He, therefore Justly Belongs-to me. Even his Angel-Guardian will, according to Origen, come forward to Accuse him, and will say: I have Labored so many Years for his Salvation; but he has Despised all my Admonitions. "Unusquisque angelorum perhibet testimonium, quot annis circa eumlaboraverit, sed monita spevit". Thus, even Friends shall Treat-with Contempt the Guilty Soul. "All her Friends have Despised her, and are become her Enemies" - Lamentations 1:2. Her very Sins shall, says Saint Bernard, Accuse Her. "And they shall say: You have Made us; we are your Work; we shall not Desert you". We are your Offspring; we shall not Leave you; we shall be your Companions in Hell for all Eternity (∞).
The Enemy is Bound like a Dog-in-Chains
Let us now Examine the Excuses which the Sinner will be Able to Advance. He will say, that the Evil Inclinations of Nature, had Drawn him to Sin. But, he shall be told, that if Concupiscence Impelled him to Sins, it did not Oblige him to Commit them; and that, if he had Recourse-to God, he should have Received from Him, Grace to Resist every Temptation. For this Purpose, Jesus Christ has left us the Sacraments; but, when we do not make use of them, we can Complain only of Ourselves. "But", says the Redeemer, "now they have no Excuse for their Sin" - John 15:22. To Excuse himself, the Sinner shall also say, that the Devil Tempted him to Sin. But, as Saint Augustine says, "the Enemy is Bound like a Dog in Chains, and can Bite only him who has United himself to him with a Deadly Security". The Devil can 'Bark', but cannot Bite, unless you Adhere and Listen-to him. Hence the Saint adds: "See how Foolish is the Man whom a Dog, Loaded-with Chains, Bites". Perhaps he will Advance his Bad Habits as an Excuse; but this shall not Stand; for the same Saint Augustine says, that though it is Difficult to Resist the Force-of an Evil Habit, "if any one does not Desert himself, he will Conquer it with the Divine Assistance". If a Man does not Abandon himself to Sin, and Invokes God's Aid, he will Overcome Evil Habits. The Apostle tells us, that the Lord does not Permit us to be Tempted above our Strength. "And God is Faithful, Who will not Suffer you to be Tempted above that which you are Able" - 1Corinthians 10:13.
"For what shall I do", said Job, "when God shall Rise to Judge? and when He shall Examine, what shall I Answer Him?" - Job 31:14. What Answer shall the Sinner give to Jesus Christ? How can he, who sees himself so Clearly Convicted, give an Answer? He shall be Covered-with Confusion, and shall Remain Silent, like the Man found without the Nuptial Garment. "And He saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a Wedding Garment? But he was Silent" - Matthew 22:12. His very Sins shall Shut the Sinners Mouth. "And all Iniquity shall Stop her Mouth" - Psalm 106:42. There, says Saint Thomas of Villanova, there shall be no Intercessors, to whom the Sinner can have Recourse. "There, there is no opportunity of Sinning; there, no Intercessor, no Friend, no Father shall Assist". Who shall then Save you? Is it God? But how, asks Saint Basil, can you expect Salvation from Him, Whom you have Despised? "Who shall Deliver you? Is it God, Whom you have Insulted?". Alas! the Guilty Soul that Leaves this World in Sin, is Condemned by Herself, before the Judge Pronounces Sentence. Let us come to the Sentence of the Judge.
How Sweet shall be the Joy of a Soul when, at Death, She hears from Jesus Christ these Sweet Words: "Well done, Good and Faithful Servant, because thou hast been Faithful over a Few Things, I will Place thee over many Things: enter thou into the Joy of thy Lord" - Matthew 25:21. Equally Great shall be the Anguish and Despair of a Guilty Soul, that shall see Herself driven-away by the Judge with the following Words: " Depart from Me, you Cursed, into Everlasting Fire which was Prepared for the Devil and his Angels" - Matthew 25:41. Oh! what a Terrible Thunderclap shall that Sentence be to Her! "O how Frightfully", says the Carthusian, "shall that Thunder Resound!" Eusebius writes, that the Terror of Sinners at Hearing their Condemnation shall be so Great, that, if they could, they would Die again. "The Wicked shall be Seized with so much Terror at the Sight of the Judge pronouncing Sentence, that, if they were not Immortal, they would Die a Second Time". But, Brethren, let us, before the Termination-of this Sermon, make some Reflections which will be Profitable to us. Saint Thomas of Villanova says, that some Listen-to Discourses on the Judgment and Condemnation of the Wicked, with so little Concern, as if they themselves were Secure-against these things, or as if the Day of Judgment were never to Arrive-for them. "Heu quam securi haec dicimus et audimus, quasi nos non tangeret haec sententia, aut quasi dies haec nunquam esset venyurus!" The Saint then asks: Is it not Great Folly to Entertain Security in so Perilous an Affair? "Quae est ista stulta securitas in discrimine tanto?" There are some, says Saint Augustine, who, though they Live-in Sin, cannot Imagine that God will send them to Hell. "Will God", they say, "really Condemn us?" Brethren, adds the Saint, do not speak thus. So many of the Damned did not Believe that they should be Sent-to Hell; but the End came, and, according-to the Threat of Ezekiel, they have been Cast-into that Place of Darkness. "The End is Come, the End is Come upon the Four Quarters of the Land. Now is an End come upon thee, and I will send My Wrath upon thee, and I will Judge thee according to thy Ways: and I will set all thy Abominations against thee" - Ezekiel 7:2-3. Sinners, perhaps Vengeance is at-hand for you, and still you Laugh and Sleep in Sin. Who will not Tremble at the Words-of the Baptist, "For now the Axe is laid to the Root of the Trees. Every Tree therefore that doth not yield Good Fruit, shall be Cut-down, and Cast into the Fire" - Matthew 3:10. He says that every Tree that does not bring-forth Good Fruit, shall be Cut-down and Cast into the Fire; and he Promises that, with regard-to the Trees, which represent Sinners, the Axe is already laid-to the Roots - that is, Chastisement is at-hand. Dearly Beloved Brethren, let us follow the Counsel of the Holy Ghost: "Before Judgment, prepare thee Justice" - Ecclesiasticus 18:19. Let us Adjust our Accounts before the Day of Accounts. Let us seek God, now that we can find Him; for the Time shall come when we Wish, but shall not be able to find Him. "You shall Seek Me, and shall not find Me" - John 7:36. "Before Judgment", says Saint Augustine, "the Judge can be Appeased, but not in Judgment". By a Change-of Life, we can now Appease the Anger of Jesus Christ, and Recover His Grace; but when He shall Judge, and find us in Sin, He must 'Execute' Justice, and we shall be Lost.
Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches. Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.
Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may Love none other, but You.
I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that belongs to me, as You Please.
I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.
I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to those who have done Evil to me.
Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.
Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary. Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.
Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph