Sunday Reflection, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Fr. Thomas Macdonald, Vice Rector
During the course of each academic year here at Saint John’s Seminary, every seminarian must stand before a board of review composed of three priest faculty members. At this board the seminarian gives an account of the progress he has made in his preparation for the priesthood. After presenting his self-assessment, the seminarian hears the faculty’s observations about his strengths, weaknesses, and overall readiness to progress to the next stage of formation. As you can imagine, this can be a nerve-wracking prospect for our men. If you’ve ever had to undergo a formal performance evaluation at your workplace, you know how intimidating it can be to come before others and hear just where you stand in their estimation of your conduct and performance. There is an ambivalence in us toward this revelation: part of us desperately wants to know where we stand in the eyes of others and another part of us shrinks in fear from coming to know just how far we fall short.
Our readings today present us with the sobering fact that all of us will one day stand before the Lord Jesus to render an account of our lives and receive His final judgment. In that moment, either at our death or at His second coming, the secrets of our hearts will be exposed before the light of His face. Everything we have done and the mystery of who we are will be revealed. We will know exactly where we stand. A moment’s reflection on how often and grievously we fail to live in Christ’s love fills us with fear at this prospect. How could we ever hope to stand before such a pure and all-seeing judge without crumpling under the weight of all our wrongs?
The marvelous truth of the Gospel is that the same One before whom we will stand on the Last Day also stands at our side on this day and every day of our lives. Under the gaze of His judgment, we surely fall short, but by the strength of His mercy He lifts us up taller than we could ever stand on our own. The more we call on Him in this life to guide our steps and lift us up when we fall, the less fearful our final judgment becomes. The more Christ becomes our companion, the more we realize that His judgments are His loving invitations to the life He desires to share with us.
Yes, we will stand before Christ as our judge, but today He beckons us to see that He stands at our side, ready to give us all the strength we need to endure all the trials of our lives, from beginning to end.