Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28
Write: Write down the key verse(s).
(27-28) Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
Reflect: Reflect on the rule (principal or idea), and record what God speaks to your mind and heart.
These last verses of the letter to the Hebrews that we read today made me think about “The Four Last Things.” How many of you can name the “four last things” that the Church teaches about? The four last things are: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Two of these are mentioned explicitly in the reading we have. Heaven is referred to as salvation. The only one that is not explicitly stated is hell. But that is also implicitly there because we know there are people who are not eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return.
So let us take a look at these briefly. Death is the worst thing that humanity faces. It is the most unknown thing we face, but that does not make it the worst thing for Christians. If we have a longing for Christ, we need not fear death, because what we look forward to is the fullness of the revelation of the one who loves us.
The only death we need to fear is the death of sin. For Christians, that happens at baptism. Having experienced baptism, we have already died, and have been born again as children of God. So, while it is understandable,… we do not need to fear death. It is understandable because it is “the veil that veils all peoples,” as Isaiah said. And the unknown is always… a little fearful.
Now, let us turn to the second part: judgment. This is something I have said a number of times throughout my priesthood. “Guilt has no place in a Christian’s life unless there is unconfessed sin.” That means what we need to fear is sin. We need not fear death, because Jesus has already taken us past that by the gift of baptism (unless we are in mortal sin). But what we need to fear is falling into sin. If we live allowing mortal sin to be part of our lives, we are saying to Jesus that we do not care about our baptism and the gifts that came with that.
So, what is mortal sin? It takes three parts to make a mortal sin in our lives: first, it has to be serious sin; second, we have to know it is serious sin; third, we have to freely choose to do it anyway. This third part is, in my opinion, the most critical. Our free will has to be involved. And, ultimately, God is the only one capable of judging whether or not our free will is truly involved in making a decision to sin or to do good.
We can look at actions and identify some things as serious sin, based on what God has revealed to us. And we need to respond accordingly. Namely, avoiding sin and doing good. I know I have said this before. If you look through the Bible, there are more do’s in the Bible than there are don’ts. So if you spend your time doing the do’s you won’t have time to do the don’ts. And even if you could, you wouldn’t, so can’t do you don’t… I won’t repeat that. But, I do not think it is wise for us to trust our own judgment on what is a mortal sin in our lives and what is not. That is why God gave us the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is God’s way of judging us with his mercy. Let me repeat that: the Sacrament of Reconciliation is God’s way of judging us with his mercy. But if we refuse to pursue his mercy here on earth, we run the serious risk of not receiving his salvation, and finding ourselves condemned because of our unwillingness to rely on his mercy.
This judgment of God is the most serious part of our faith. Too many people in our world today make light of the fact that we claim our God is a God of mercy. That his mercy will forgive everyone. But…
He is also a God who judges, and judges justly. If we do not pursue his mercy in the ways that he has granted it for us here on earth, what makes us think we will understand it when it comes time to stand before the Eternal Judge? Do you really want to face the possibility of eternal damnation?
Apply: Write out how you can apply the message beginning today.
So it is really very simple as to what we must do. We must have a full heart. Now, what does that mean? A full heart means a number of things: a desire for the love of God; a recognition of our own personal need for his mercy; a love for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Hmm? How long since you have been?); a hatred for all things that are sinful; and a zeal for spreading the Word of the Gospel and bringing people to Christ.
If you have not learned your own need for the mercies of God, and have not had a life-giving experience of his mercies through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, how can you hope to bring others to Christ? Yes, it is that personal. Do you know his mercy? Have you been healed from the wounds of sin? … Can you show me your scars?
Pray/Praise: Pray the verse; make it your own; talk with Jesus. As for his grace and help to walk out his word. Rest in his presence and receive his grace.
Lord Jesus, heal us. Each day we have need of your mercies. There are times when we do not even know our need. Yet, you are always there with your gentle grace. Inform our hearts of our need for your mercy. Help us to eagerly await your salvation. Not just the judgment and salvation at the end of our lives, but every day of our lives remind us that you offer us salvation, mercy, renewal, and eternal life. Renew our hope, our confidence that you are our loving Savior. Help us, finally, to share our confidence with the world around us. Amen.