As the liturgical year draws to a close, those uncomfortable passages come along. The ones about judgment and who gets into the Kingdom of Heaven. Lines get drawn in the sand, and I awkwardly would just rather skip ahead to an angel visiting Mary. I’ll recite the Nicene Creed every week, but I’d really rather not think about the ramifications of the “life of the world to come.”
When the Left Behind series first came out, my grandfather didn’t read them. He said he didn’t need to know what would happen to those left behind, because he wasn’t one of them. Now, while that mostly may have been a dig at the whole rapture doctrine, the point still stands that he didn’t see that as a realistic prospect for him, so it didn’t interest him. I feel must the same way on atonement theories. It’s not so much that I’m pridefully assured of my salvation, but I just don’t see not being with God as a realistic prospect.
I’m too surrounded by him. He’s ever present in my life. I feel his love. I try my best to respond. The concept of being outside of his grace is not too painful; it’s too unimaginable to even be painful. Fire and brimstone won’t work on scaring me into submission. It would be like telling me that my earthly father is going to start hitting me; while I know people experience family violence, my experience says otherwise, so such warnings seem unfounded.
But there are these warnings. The sheep and the goats. The places of fire and gnashing of teeth. The end is coming. Or, rather, ends are coming. There is the end of the world, the second coming, the new earth, the all shall be well, and the Last Judgment. And there is the end of me, my death, my particular judgment. Winter harkens, death loom, and warnings of ends and judgments abound. Shouldn’t I be worried or sad or shocked? Why the malaise over the end?
I think there are several reasons. The first, like I mentioned, is that it’s just too foreign a concept for me to grasp fully. Another, although selfish perhaps, is that I’m optimistic that I’ll rest under God’s grace. Lastly, I feel that the end is good, even if it has seemingly terrible ramifications. The judgments are ultimately about God’s power and Christ’s victory over death. Creation is purged and fully reunited with its Creator. All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
Or maybe I’m just seriously lacking in Catholic guilt.