As I drove down Interstate 80 in Nebraska early one morning in 2015, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a beautiful sunrise. I breathlessly exited at the first opportunity and captured the moment with my camera while parked on an overpass. The result is the image accompanying this post. I printed, framed, and hung it on the wall in my house. Every time I look at it, I think of how this might be what the second coming of Christ will look like.
This leads to the question of how we know that Christ will come again and what it will look like. We regularly recite the following during Mass: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.” Christ, the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, came to earth the first time two-thousand years ago, redeemed us by dying on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. And, despite already accomplishing the important objective of redeeming the human race, we say that He will come again. Why will He come again, and what will be His purpose this second time around?
In contemplating the answers, I reminded myself of God’s purpose of creating us in the first place, which is to love Him as He loves us and to be happy with Him for all eternity in heaven. But we have our life on earth to contend with first. We must have faith, we must repent and be free from sin. Then, as stated in Matthew’s Gospel, to use Christ’s own words (Matt 24:27): “For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the son of Man be.” Then Matthew continues (Matt 24:30-31): ”…and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather His elect from the four winds and from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Then later in Matthew, Chapter 25, we have Christ saying, that while sitting on his glorious throne, “He will separate them, one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.” Then He “will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” He is referring to what has come to be known as “Judgment Day.” This begs one final question: How will His elect be recognized?
The answer is clear from the closing passages from Chapter 25. They will be those who performed what the Church calls the “works of mercy.” They will be those who gave food to the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, cared for those who are ill, and visited the imprisoned. For those who subscribe to the “Faith Alone” concept of salvation, I invite you to read the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:31-46. Those who do not perform these works of mercy “will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
So, what will judgment Day look like? My thoughts today envision it being like in the photograph … an explosion in the sky as we drive down the interstate. We will see the glory of God coming down from heaven, the angels will be dispatched, the sheep will be separated from the goats, and the sheep will be invited into the glory of heaven. How I long to be in that number. Amen.