‘Great is already the punishment of sin when the fear of the future divine judgment is lost.’ – St. Augustine
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, in his book ‘Preparation for Death’, said that “At present, if we consider it well, there is no one more despised than Jesus Christ. We make more account of a peasant than of God; because if we insult a peasant, we fear that, being offended beyond endurance, he may avenge himself; but as for God, we insult Him, and heap insults freely on Him, as if He could not avenge Himself when He would…” In the end, we will be judged by our Lord. The first will be our own particular judgement, and then a second time during the final judgement, at the end of time.
The Church believes that at the moment of death, the soul experiences particular judgement by Christ, where, as St. John of the Cross said, “at the evening of life, we will be judged on our love.” St. Augustine said that, “for the just He will come in love, for the wicked in terror.” It is not that Christ is a terror, but to the sinner, the unrepentant, to the person who refused the love of God, the person who refused His infinite mercy, it is to them that Christ is a terror. St. Bernard said “that the soul will suffer more in seeing the indignation of Jesus than in being in Hell itself”.
Why such terror? Father Martin Von Cochem, O.S.F.C., said the following about particular judgement:
There are six things which strike terror into the soul, when she is summoned to the particular judgment.
(1) The soul fears because she knows her Judge to be omniscient; that nothing can be concealed from Him, nor can He be in any way deceived.
(2) Because her Judge is omnipotent; nothing can withstand Him, and no one can escape from Him.
(3) Because her Judge is not merely the most just, but the most strict of judges, to whom sin is so hateful that He will not allow the slightest transgression to pass unpunished.
(4) Because the soul knows that God is not her judge alone, but also her accuser; she has provoked Him to anger, she has offended against Him, and He will defend His honour and avenge every insult offered to it.
(5) Because the soul is aware that the sentence once uttered is irrevocable; there is no appeal for her to a higher court, it is useless for her to complain of the sentence. It cannot be reversed, and whether adverse or favourable she must needs accept it.
(6) The most powerful reason of all why the soul fears to appear before the judgment seat is because she knows not what the sentence of the Judge will be. She has far more cause to fear than to hope. And all thought of help is now over. Forever, forever lost; forever, forever damned!
We cannot hide from this judgment. We will be completely transparent, and we will know that we are completely transparent before our Blessed Lord. We are not meant to fear death, for those who die pure in the grace and friendship of God, in a state of grace, live forever with God in Heaven. But we must always be prepared to die, and always be doing everything possible to be in this state. However we must realize that we may not die in this state and for those who do not die in this state, we must pray! We must pray also for the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Jesus said to St. Faustina in her Diaries “Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties, obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer. You know the whole abyss of My mercy, so draw upon it for yourself and especially for poor sinners. Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul. (1777)” There are two different places to where we may be sentenced: Heaven or Hell. If we are granted entrance to Heaven, we most likely will need to go to Purgatory first (a place of purification before going to Heaven for those in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfect, not in a state of mortal sin).
General or Final Judgment
The general or final judgment will take place after the resurrection of all the dead, where everyone’s soul and body will be reunited. Final Judgment will take place after Christ returns in Glory. Father Martin Von Cochem, O.S.F.C. says that, “In order that His advent may not find us unprepared, He will send beforehand many and terrible signs to warn us to abandon our sinful life.” Everything on earth will be consumed or purified by fire. Then, the Angels will sound the trumpets to awaken the dead, calling “Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment! Arise!” The bodies and souls of the just will reunite, and so with the bodies and souls of the damned. Following this, all will be told to go to the valley of Josaphat, near Jerusalem (Joel 3:14). Then, “the angels shall go out and separate the wicked from among the just.” (Matt 13:49) The just shall be separated to the right, and the damned to the left. Our Blessed Lord’s cross, and the instruments of his passion will appear in the sky. This will bring great joy to the just, but the wicked will cry out, in desperation to hide from their angry judge, “they say to the mountains and to the rocks: Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of the Him that sitteth upon the throne and from the Lamb.” (Rev 4:16). Then Our lord will descend on the clouds from Heaven, and announce the sentence of the just, and that of the wicked. The just will spend eternity with God, and the wicked, the devils, and all of the damned will be cast into everlasting fire, with the gates to be closed and never reopened. The just will go up lead by St. Michael, carrying the cross on which Christ died, followed by the choirs of angels with different groups of the elect “for whose company his virtues render him most fit.” Then will come Our Lady and our Blessed Lord.
Let us not waste this short time that we have. Fast, pray, mortify yourself, and make penance. Frequent confession (once a month is a good practice) and Mass (Sunday mass, plus Holy Days of Obligation) – daily Mass if you can make it. And love. Love God with all of your heart, soul , mind, and strength. In doing so, you will be able to love others as you should. Hold nothing back. Let us do as Father Martin Von Cochem, O.S.F.C. suggests when he says, “wherefore make such good use of the brief period of life, that thou mayst be numbered among the just, and arise with them to everlasting felicity, and not with the reprobate to everlasting torments. Pray often thus in thy heart: “O most compassionate Lord Jesus, I implore Thee for the sake of Thy bitter Passion and death, and through the Last Judgment at which Thou wilt be the Judge of the whole world, grant me grace to live in such a manner that at the resurrection I may arise with joy and not with shame. Amen.”