Second Sunday in Advent 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, blessings, and peace, as we celebrate today the Second Sunday in Advent. We recall that traditionally each of the Sundays in this season is dedicated to a particular topic. Last Sunday, we focused on death. The Third and the Fourth Sundays will be focused on Heaven and on Hell. Today, we consider judgment, which usually conjures the stark image in our minds of a condemned man, handcuffed and chained, being led to the scaffold, or languishing in a dark corner of his prison cell. We imagine a judge seated high, clothed in black, with his index finger pointed accusingly at the suspect. Perhaps, we imagine criminal lawyers in Brooks Brothers’ suits checking off their wins and losses on something that resembles their golf scorecards. Whatever the image we indulge the word “judgment” is typically disassociated with “mercy.” The connotation is that judgment is cold, hard, unforgiving, and, therefore, altogether incompatible with the God of love and mercy who commands us to forgive those who harm us “seventy times seven times.” The inability of most modern men to square judgment with mercy in their own minds is one of the chief reasons for the modernist heresies that have ripped apart so much of Christianity in the West. The heretics reject the notion that we can hate the sin, but love the sinner. For them, hating the sin is tantamount to hating the sinner; therefore, judging the sin as sin is tantamount to jailing that sinner, and throwing away the key, without even the pretense of mercy. In order to avoid this conundrum, they have embraced what is tantamount to a cult of permissiveness which necessitates doing away with the very idea of “sin.” Instead of castigating any particular act as “sinful,” they will say that it is a “culturally misunderstood” act, or an act that is not intrinsically wrong, but has been suppressed in order to keep the oppressor class on top and the marginal class under their boot. For the heretics, the result is a world with no absolute rights and wrongs. Rather, what we call “right” and “wrong” is simply the culturally determined axe with which the powerful cut down the powerless. Switch the oppressor and the oppressed, and much of what we have been calling “right” can be tossed aside as “wrong,” and vice versa. The end result of this permissiveness is a cultural relativism where judgment is never final, nor based on any absolute authoritative measure, but is simply the exercise of raw power by whatever today constitutes an “in” group against an “out” group. The cult of permissiveness in the end turns out to be anything but a celebration of mercy. It turns out to be the calculated, pernicious stratagem of those who are at war against God. Like all heresies, it is the work of the devil, the devil’s willing pawns, and the devil’s useful idiots. The Church is obligated to speak in clear and unequivocal terms against this cult of permissiveness. When she fails to do so, which is so often the case in our times, she loses her authority, and even those who are indifferent to the faith will sense that she has lost her way or is increasingly irrelevant.

Still, what are we to make of the images we have in our minds about judgment: the imperious judge with the accusatory index finger, the lawyers playing games with people’s lives, and the condemned on his forced march to the scaffold? It is important to remember that God is One. This means more than simply that there is one God. It means that He is unitary. In Him, there are no divisions, no compromises, and no incongruencies. God’s judgment is God’s mercy, and vice versa. We separate judgment from mercy in our minds because we have an impartial and often wrongheaded view of each. But God is the very standard by which judgment is just, and mercy is merciful, and He has an absolute understanding of and commitment to the justice of His judgments and the mercifulness of His mercy. Because of our sins, we are condemned by His judgments; but by virtue of grace, as is earned for us by Christ Jesus on the Cross, we shall start to see that in fact we are blessed by His judgments. For the fact that God judges us must mean that we are worthy to be judged. Notwithstanding how far we have fallen into sin, God still sees us as creatures meant for eternity and so subject to what is eternally right and good. As God says through the Prophet Isaiah in today’s Prophetic Lesson: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my was. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God judges us, not because He is being imperious, nor because He is playing legal games with our fate. God is God and has no need for any of that. Rather, He judges us so that, realizing we have no future apart from His grace, and also realizing that we are actually meant for eternity, we may embrace Him and the total transformation of our lives that will come from our eventual salvation in His Son. As God says in today’s Prophetic Lesson: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from the heavens, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: It shall not return unto me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” God’s judgment, like His mercy, is His Eternal Word going forth from His mouth and into the world. It is the action by which He rights what is wrong and makes the world conform to what pleases Him. Rather than offering man the demonic cult of permissiveness, God in His judgment is offering man the possibility of perfection. Christ Jesus says: “Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” He is not setting up an impossibility to remind us how far we have fallen and how much we are condemned. Rather, regardless of how implausible this may sound, He is actually offering us an invitation to be perfect, which is to say to be like God and to be able in all truth and in all righteousness to call Him Our Father. Man is judged, so that by grace we may see the extent to which we are saved in the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For Christ Jesus not only saves us from that scaffold that is the good and proper punishment for our sins. Nor does He only release us from that prison in which we have confined ourselves in our own despair. More than all of that He lifts us up, like the rain that lifts the plants up from inside the soil, and refashions us, like the harvested wheat made into bread. Freeing us from our own sins is just the first step. What God has in store for us is so much more and better than that. My Brethren, we only have to fear God’s judgment to the extent we reject His Son and refuse to let go of our sins. We only have to fear God’s judgment to the extent that we refuse to forgive those who have trespassed against us. Truly live what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, and there is no reason not to look forward to the Day of Judgment that awaits us all.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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