Sense of Life. Articles in English. Judgment at the Moment of Death.
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Judgment at the Moment of Death

At the moment of death “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10).

After we die we face particular judgment, for “it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this [comes] the judgment” (Heb 9:27). Jesus Christ tells us what this judgment will consist in: “And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (Jn 3:19-21). Christ will judge us by one criterion only — love. He clearly states that those who during their life on earth “prefer darkness” and commit evil will “hate the light.” This means that they will hate God and reject the gift of salvation that Christ offers them. Those, on the other hand, who make their earthly pilgrimage respecting God’s commandments, “living the truth,” will “come to the light,” that is, they will accept the gift of salvation offered to them. Thus, at the judgment, God will oblige us once and for all to decide for ourselves: “Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him” (Sir 15:17).

This crucial decision made at the moment of death will depend on the record of our entire earthly life, for “the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit” (Gal 6:8). Death brings to an end the lifelong process of our shaping of our humanity, of our growing in freedom and love. Every conscious and freely-made decision to “live the truth,” every effort of faith and prayer, every struggle with our selfishness and sins, predisposes us to the action of the Holy Spirit, who is then  able to form and develop in us that authentic freedom which is quite simply the aptitude for heroic love. On the other hand, every sin committed, every omission of the good, every giving in to the logic of selfishness enslaves us, closes us off from God’s action, deforms our humanity, and destroys our aptitude for love. Man’s lack of conversion and obduracy in sin can so disfigure him as to turn him into a pure egoist, who will then despise the light of truth and love and love himself with a love so overweening as to make him despise his Creator. Thus our time on earth is for each of us a time of unrepeatable and decisive preparation for eternal love in heaven or, as the case may be, a time of degeneration and descending into absolute egoism and eternal perdition.

When, upon death, we stand before Christ face-to-face at the particular judgment, we will be obliged — with the full record of our earthly life clearly before our eyes — to make one last decision in favor of Christ or against Him. That decision will always be an expression of the truth about us; that is, about how we shaped our freedom while living on earth. At the particular judgment every one of us, having fully experienced the love of Christ, will decide once and for all to accept or reject Him. A “yes” uttered to Christ will bring on Heaven (by way of Purgatory, if necessary); a “no” will bring on Hell.

Each of us will receive what we desire, for our desire will be in accordance with the kind of person we were during our earthly life. “Beyond the mysterious gates of death, [there lies] an eternity of joy in communion with God or the punishment of separation from Him” (John Paul II, Reconcilatio et paenitentia, 26).

“Why will not all be saved? Because not all will desire it. Grace, which is given freely, saves only those who desire salvation; and those who do not desire salvation, it does not save” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans, XVIII, 5).

Fr. M. Piotrowski SChr

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The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in May 2016.

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