|Hans Membling's The Last Judgement|
Below, I have reproduced Pope Francis' catechesis from his Wednesday General Audience because it is a subject that many people ask me about often. I get a lot of questions about the Final Judgement and what it's all about. Pope Francis' catechesis on this topic is outstanding. Here it is:
Vatican City, 24 April 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of his Wednesday general audience to three Gospel texts that help us to enter into the mystery of one of the truths professed in the Creed: that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. The three texts are: the parable of the ten virgins; the parable of the talents; and the final judgement. They all form part of Jesus' teaching on the end of time in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Before the more than 75,000 persons filling St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father spoke of "the 'immediate time' between Jesus' first and final comings, which is precisely the time in which we are living. The parable of the ten virgins is located within this context." They are awaiting the Bridegroom but fall asleep because he is late in arriving. Five of them, who are wise, keep oil aside and can light their lamps when the Bridegroom arrives unexpectedly. The other, foolish ones, do not have it and, while they look for it, the nuptial celebrations have already begun and the door to enter into the banquet is closed to them.
“The Bridegroom is the Lord and the time of awaiting his arrival is the time that He gives us, with mercy and patience, before his final coming. It is a time of vigilance, a time in which we must keep the lamps of faith, hope, and love lit. [It is a time] to keep our hearts open to the good, to beauty, and to truth; a time to live according to God because we do not know either the day or the hour of Christ's return. What is asked of us is to be prepared for the encounter, which means knowing how to read the signs of his presence, to keep our faith alive with prayer and the Sacraments, and to be vigilant so as not to fall asleep, not to forget God. The life of Christians who are sleeping is a sad life, not a happy life. Christians must be happy, [feeling] the joy of Jesus.”
The second parable, of the talents, “makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts we have received from God and his return when he will ask us how we have used them. … This tells us that our awaiting the Lord's return is a time of action … time to make the most of God's gifts, nor for ourselves, but for him, for the Church, for others. [It is] the time in which to always seek to make good grow in the world. Particularly in this time of crisis, today, it is important not to be locked up in ourselves, removing our talents, our spiritual and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open ourselves, to be compassionate, to be attentive to others.”
“In the square today there are many young persons. Is this true? Are there many youth? Where are they? To you, who are at the beginning of life's path, I ask: have you thought of the talents that God has given you? Have you thought of how to put them at the service of others? Don't take your talents away! Bet on great ideals, those ideals that enlarge our hearts, those ideals of service that make your talents fruitful. We were not given life so that we might hold it back, jealously, for ourselves, but it was given to us so that we might offer it. Dear young persons, you have great souls! Don't be afraid to dream of great things!”
The Holy Father then spoke of the story of the final judgement that tells of the second coming of the Lord when He will judge all human beings, living and dead. "At his right hand will be those who have acted in accordance with God's will, helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the ill, the imprisoned—I said 'foreigner'. I am thinking of all the foreigners who are here in the Diocese of Rome. What are we doing for them?" the Pope asked.
In the story, at the Lord's left hand are those who did not assist their neighbour. “This tells us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we have love our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and most needy of them. Of course, we always have to keep in mind that we are judged, we are saved by grace, by an act of God's gratuitous love that always precedes us. Alone we can do nothing. Faith is foremost a gift that we have received. But, to bear fruit, God's grace always requires our openness to him, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of the God who saves. We have been asked to entrust ourselves to him, to make our good lives—made of deeds inspired by faith and love—match the gift of his love.”
“Looking to the final judgement must never frighten us,” the pontiff concluded. “Rather, it urges us to live the present better. With mercy and patience, God offers us this time so that we might learn every day to recognize him in the poor and the small, might strive for the good, and might be vigilant in prayer and love. The Lord, at the end of our existence and of history, may then recognize us as good and faithful servants.”