When you see a movie about “Armageddon”
or “Judgment Day,” it’s all explosions and nightmares.
And yet, what did the Lord just tell us?
“Do not be terrified.”
When I think about trying to be calm
in the face of terrible events,
I think of one of my favorite saints,
Father Maximilian Kolbe, from Poland.
Early in his life, he had a vision of our Lady,
in which he was offered a choice between two crowns—one white, one red.
The white meant a life of purity; the red, to be a martyr.
He told the Blessed Mother he would accept both.
He was 12 years old!
But that is exactly what happened.
He became a Franciscan priest; he was very successful:
he formed a movement to promote devotion to our Lady,
and he traveled the world, setting up monasteries.
Then came the storm clouds of Hitler and war.
He was arrested and shipped to Auschwitz.
One day, the Nazis rounded up men to be executed.
One man pleaded for his life,
and Father Maximilian stepped forward and said,
“I will take his place.”
My point is, here was a man
who saw his world come to an end,
as much as anyone could;
he certainly had reason to be terrified.
If we get laid off; bills pile up; our health goes sour.
These, too, are terrifying.
If Saint Maximilian knew peace—in that hell on earth—what about us?
Can we know peace in our situation?
Speaking of “Judgment Day”—
if we find that frightening,
isn’t it because we fear we won’t pass the test?
We might wonder what “test” we will face.
Well, we won’t “pass” because we’re smart;
nor will we “pass” because of the good works we have.
No, it’s a lot simpler than that.
Judgment Day is like looking in a mirror.
We will be asked, Are we like Jesus?
The answer is “yes”…or “no.”
I don’t know about you,
but today, I am long way from saying “yes.”
Well, in that Judgment Day exam,
there’s a second question.
If you’re not yet like Jesus…do you want to be?
Again, that’s a “yes” or “no.”
If “yes”—then Purgatory;
If “no”—then all that is left is hell.
But here’s the thing: we cannot wait until then.
This is the question we work on, right now!
This is where we realize what a blessing
we have in our Catholic Faith.
The Lord has given us the way to become like him:
he founded the Church,
his guides the pope and bishops in leading us,
and he gives us the sacraments, above all, the Mass.
In each sacrament—above all the Mass—
we have a direct encounter with Christ himself,
and he gives us his own, divine power to change!
So in confession, we come and tell the Lord,
“I messed up every possible way!”
What does he do? He forgives completely! Totally!
And he gives you his grace to change.
“But why do I have to keep coming back?”
Because the coming-back is how we change.
This leads us to the awesome reality of the Mass.
As a younger man, before I was a priest—
I wasn’t a particularly good Catholic.
And I didn’t like coming to Mass.
See, I knew the Mass
was Jesus offering himself for my sins;
I knew he was challenging me to change,
but I wasn’t ready…
so I couldn’t come to communion.
Every Mass was a little Judgment Day—
and I didn’t like that.
But really, consider what a mercy that is!
At the climax of the Mass,
the priest lifts up the Lord Jesus himself, and says,
“This is the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sins of the world;
happy are those who are called to his Supper.”
The answer is, everyone is called, but not all are ready:
Not all have even heard;
Not all are ready to be baptized;
Still others have heard, but are considering if they can say a full “yes” to all the Lord asks.
That goes for us who are Catholics;
We aren’t always ready to say a full “yes.”
But as I say—the mini-Judgment Day at each Mass
is not condemnation, but mercy.
Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be like me?”
In the Eucharist, in himself, he shows us the Mirror;
and he offers the Remedy.