Fired by love's urgent longings, I am his rocketman.

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor preached, in part, on the final judgment. In particular, I think he had in mind that face to face encounter we are all looking forward to (just kidding!), our exit interview if you will, with the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Captain of the Hosts of Heaven, the Prince of Peace, the perfect man God, the beloved son who dwells in the heart of the Father.  He said, “Of course we do not need to wonder what questions will be on the final exam for we already know the questions we will be asked”.

Do you know the questions?

Matthew tells us, “When the Son of man comes in his glory … the King will say …’Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'” (Matthew 25:32-36)  This is the subject matter of the final exam, and the questions are not too difficult to imagine.

Three of my now mostly grown children are in the process of studying for their semester final exams.  They would be quite upset if they showed up for their finals only to find out at the last minute that the professor changed the subject matter of the exam without notice to them.  Everyone would think that behavior unfair.  Likewise, given the subject matter of the exam in advance, we would all think it peculiar, if they chose to study something else in preparation for the test.  For example, if my daughter Shea prepared for her history exam by reviewing everything she learned in Algebra, we would all know she has bigger problems than we had heretofore imagined.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine a college student preparing for a math exam when the subject of the test is history.  However, when it comes to the really critical stuff, such as giving an account for how we lived our life, the idea that we might get it entirely wrong, is more possible than you might think.

Perhaps this is what Jesus warns us about in the following passage:  “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

We have a great capacity for doing what we want to do, don’t we?  Or rather, we bear in these bodies a marked resistance to doing what we are told.  We really do think we know better and, if we are not careful, we might just show up for our final exam prepared to answer all the wrong questions, certain in our own minds, that the Lord, like my hypothetical professor above, changed the subject matter of the test without consulting us.  This is not as farfetched as it seems.

Catherine of Sienna, an extraordinary woman who lived in the fourteenth century and is recognized as a mystic, saint and doctor in the Catholic Church, wrote that every good and every sin is produced for or against our neighbor.  Likewise she says love of God is fulfilled and completed through our neighbor.
Moreover, Catherine suggests that the measure with which we measure out to our neighbor will be measured back to us.  This is consistent with the passage in Luke’s gospel:  “Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over shall men give into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you mete with it shall be measured to you again.”  (Luke 6:38)

Now that’s a scary thought!  Maybe not for you, but it is for me.  You see I know what I am capable of; or perhaps more to the point, I know what I am incapable of.  This verse seems to put it all squarely on me.

To be honest, reflecting on this idea that what I measure out will be measured back to me has been challenging.  I cannot help but think of all the good I have withheld from my neighbor?  How many times has the Holy Spirit inspired me to do some small act and I hesitated only to let the moment pass?  How many missed opportunities have come and gone?  And when I consider Hebrews 12:14 which reads “Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”, I wonder how many cannot see the Lord because of me –my lack of holiness?

I suspect it is readily apparent to you why these refections have been so disconcerting for me.  I have been so focused on what I lack that I momentarily forgot what Jesus gives abundantly: grace and truth.  The Lord reminded me that I am his work and he will bring that work in me to completion. (Phil 2: )  Paul captured this important truth very well:  “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness.  May he preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body.  Irreproachable at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls us is trustworthy, therefore he will do it.”  (1 Thes. 5:23-24)

Wow!  The word of God is so awesome and powerful.   

Without a doubt, the gospel way of life is a hard and narrow way; but we never walk it alone.  Jesus is always walking with us and he shows us how to live.  In order for us to make progress in this way of life, we have to have the same mind that he had, “though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:6-8) If we are going to love our neighbor as ourselves it is imperative that we understand this truth and that we receive the grace to live it out.  Otherwise, we cannot do it.

Even with understanding and grace it is a daunting task that requires commitment, courage and determination.  Like the psalmist, we must make up our minds to obey his decrees and set ourselves to carry out his will.  This not a task for the weak minded nor is it something we can begin to accomplish with half-hearted effort.  Like Catherine of Sienna says, “we must bear ourselves with manful courage”.
If we do our part, Jesus will help us.  In fact, if we ask, he will give us whatever we need.

So please Jesus, complete this good work you have begun in us.  Make us perfect in holiness.  Preserve us whole and entire, spirit, soul and body.  Make us irreproachable at your coming.  

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