Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. That is quite a mouthful, and with it comes a lot of weight. We think of Jesus as a king in many different ways, like the king of our hearts or the king of heaven. We think of Him as a humble servant king or a king of justice and mercy.
All these things are true, but the title of King of the Universe tells us of the vastness of His kingdom. Jesus is the King of all Creation. Everything that exists, or any reality that you can contemplate, falls under His powerful rule. Every creature, atom, molecule, and element, on Earth or not (think stars! galaxies! black holes!) falls within His kingdom and is therefore subject to Him. Earthly kings and other rulers have limited reigns and are followed by successors, but Jesus’ reign is almighty and eternal. It is with this authority that He will one day return to Earth for the Final Judgement and usher all to their eternal fate. What will that day, when our King returns, be like?
Do you ever wonder if we are living in the “end times”? More than likely that thought has crossed your mind, especially in the last several years. It often seems as if very little is going well for the human race and, as fewer and fewer people even believe in God anymore, it seems even more bleak. Truth be told, we are in the end times, but the end times began when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Thus began the following 2,000 years of counting the days until His return. For us humans, 2,000 years seems like a very long time to be referring to them as the last days, but from an eternal perspective, it has been nothing more than a blink of an eye. Since Jesus left this Earth, the world has gone through many periods that would have seemed catastrophic and apocalyptic to the people living in them. There have been wars, famines, natural disasters, and, most prevalently, all manner of sins to suit the times. Many of the things we see today are nothing new. The world has seen treacherous leaders, atheism, occultism, heresy, blasphemy, and even Satanism throughout all of this time. So, when you wonder if the end of the world is approaching, the short answer is “yes,” but remember to keep that within the perspective of God’s eternal time versus the human view of time.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus frequently speaks about the end of the world and what it will be like for those still living on Earth. He says, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,” (Matt 24:30). In other words, if no one knows the exact day Jesus is coming back, it could be tomorrow, or it could be in another 2,000 years. In Matthew 25, He tells the parable of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom who could show up within a window of time. As it turns out, the bridegroom is delayed, and they must wait longer than they anticipated. Five of the virgins were thinking ahead and prepared for any potential problems by packing extra flasks of oil for their lamps. The other five did not prepare and had to go out to buy more oil while he was delayed. While they were out buying more oil, the bridegroom arrived and those that were prepared went inside with him and the door was shut with the others being denied entry. This is a very important message for us today as we await the second coming of our King. Since we don’t know the day or hour of His arrival, we always need to be prepared. We do not want to be like the five foolish virgins (who represent being spiritually unprepared) by relishing in our sin and focusing on worldly attachments, thinking that we have plenty of time to work on ourselves. Worse yet is if we were to be lukewarm in our faith thinking that, so long as we are just good enough, it will be sufficient to squeeze through the crack in the door, only to find it inadequate. We ought to be like the five prepared virgins, spiritually “filling our flasks” by repenting, growing in virtue, praying without ceasing, loving God above all things, and being absolutely ready for Him to come and take us home with not a moment’s notice. If Jesus were to show up an hour after reading this, would you be ready? It could happen.
So, what will happen when Jesus, the King, does return? This is what the Church refers to as the Last Judgement. The Catechism provides a general outline of the events that will take place when the end of the world arrives. “The resurrection of all the dead, ‘of both the just and the unjust’, will precede the Last Judgement,” (CCC #1038). At the sound of the Lord’s voice, all of the tombs will be opened, and everyone’s soul will be rejoined to their bodies. If you happen to be alive when this happens, you will stay just as you are and witness this event. “Then Christ will come ‘in his glory, and all the angels with him… Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left… And they will go away into eternal punishments, but the righteous into eternal life,’” (CCC#1038). So, Jesus will stand before us and will separate those going to heaven from those going to hell. Note here, that a person goes to their final destination in their bodies, so in heaven, one may enjoy the pleasures of heaven in the flesh, and in hell, one may suffer the tortures of hell in the flesh. The Catechism goes on to explain that this will all be done publicly, so we will have an eyewitness account of the judgement of all. “In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare” (CCC #1039). In other words, those things that are done in the dark will not be kept in the dark. The light of truth will always illuminate everything in due time.
After this all happens, Jesus will speak to us and suddenly everything will make sense. “We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end,” (CCC #1040). On a personal level, it is at this point you will understand how everything in your life led you to your final destination. This includes your suffering and trials and the graces you received to endure them. Things that don’t make much sense now will be clear at the Last Judgement and you will see how God worked in these things.
The final paragraph in the Catechism on the topic of the Last Judgement contains a message of hope, and potentially, an inspiration to act. “The message of the Last Judgement calls men to conversion while God is still giving them ‘the acceptable time… the day of salvation,’” (CCC #1041). We have time right now, in this moment, to experience conversion in our hearts, reform our lives, and commit ourselves to Jesus so that, when the King returns in glory, we can join Him in His eternal Kingdom, which will be better than anything we can possibly imagine. This week let’s think about how we can be even more like one of the five wise virgins and further increase the oil in each of our own flasks, so we are ready when He comes.