The judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates, we heard in the first reading. Undoubtedly, the Judge in St. James' passage is referred to God, specifically to Jesus. Our Lord is considered to be our Judge as we confess in the Creed. Still, It is right to acknowledge that we, today's Christians are not so fond of portraying Jesus as the Judge.
Can you recall of any Catholic Church around that has the painting of say, the Last judgment above the altar? Probably not. We prefer to portray Jesus who is kind and compassionate as depicted just a few rows later in the above-mentioned letter. Loving, understanding, smiling and merciful Christ appears to be Christ much closer to contemporary believer's psychology than Christ the Judge.
Now I'm going to tell you my recently experienced story related to this. Each Monday evening on the Canberra Multicultural radio we from St. Augustine's church prepare a half hour long radio show for Croatians in the city. It's a show on religious topics with news from our community, readings of the Gospel and reflections on it, spiritual music etc. I'm sure y ou might have noticed so far that in November the liturgical texts were predominantly focused on the glorious Jesus' returning and His everlasting reign as the Universal King. The final judgment over peoples summoned in front of his Divine throne is supposedly in any way a necessary step in establishing that reign. Supposing that my listeners had the right to be reminded of the full truth of the catholic faith, one evening I talked about it. I can recall only one sentence from that reflection. I said next: Christ comes not only to save but to judge as well. What I had in mind was to remind listeners that salvation is a process. It has commenced for us and yet has to be confirmed by God. That's the final judgment, God's evaluation whether we are worthy on unworthy to sit at His table. Well, next Monday, it was one of our sisters to run the show. Talking more or less over the same topic, accidentally or intentionally her statement went like this: Christ comes not to judge but to save. (Quite opposite to what I said a week before)
My intention was not to frighten any of my listeners nor any of you present here tonight. I tried to encourage listeners not to hesitate to take an active role in their salvation process. That God's judgment is quite sure whether one likes it or not whether one thinks about it or neglects it.
There will be no final beatitude without passing through the final judgment . We are responsible while on earth to show ourselves worthy to be judged just. Our righteousness still has to be tested. The Divine sentence will depend upon our good deeds which we did in collaboration with God's grace, and upon those we did without relaying on God i.e. our sins.
Christ's coming without judgment is something what might seem attractive to many lukewarm, but that is not going to happen.The divine judgment will be universal and just. There will be no salvation for everyone. (That heresy has been condemned by the Church a long time ago). Everyone is called and offered because Christ died and rose from the dead for all of us. Still, not everyone is being saved for eternity. Reason is: some of those invited to the royal banquet were busy at that time. They were slow to believe, lazy to answer God's love, persistent in despising His mercy.
Exhorted by James's letter let us call in mind we will be judged by God one day. He is loving and compassionate and wishes our eternal beatitude. Simultaneously, His love is just love. There is no need to fear. The Lord is kind and merciful. God, rich in mercy, works on our salvation. What He needs is our responsible partnership. Our eternity is a medal being manufactured daily by God's grace and our deeds of love and compassion toward others. Let us hope that our medal which is to be tested in a fire of His love and justice be claimed will be made of gold with eternal, everlasting value. Amen.
Fr. Vjeko Edward Tomic