In our day, it’s difficult to avoid all the scandals in the world. There is even the scandal of fake scandals, all courtesy of the media and the Internet’s anti-social media. The ease with which people get away with terrible injustices can be very depressing until we realize that God is just: “God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
All will be accounted for on the day of Particular Judgment when each of us will stand before the judgment seat of God, and at the end of time during the General Judgment, when we will witness the absolutely perfect justice of God for all peoples throughout history.
Personally, I am looking forward to the General Judgment. I’m curious how God will mete out His justice according to my special interests. Have you heard of The Weather Channel? At the end of time, I imagine there will be a kind of “Last Judgment Network” where we might channel surf the lives of every person throughout history.
So with the television remote control device and some hot popcorn, let’s do some imaginary channel surfing on the final disposition of certain persons of interest at the Last Judgment.
Channel 1945: Adolph Hitler undergoing his own eternal “final solution.”
Channel 1963: One of the premium channels of the Last Judgment Network because it unveils the mysteries of JFK’s assassination. Did Oswald act alone? Was it the Mob? LBJ? Stay tuned.
Channel 1965: At age 11, one of my friends cheated me out of five dollars. I complained to my dad, who took it in stride. Barely interrupting reading the newspaper, he said, “Well, that was worth it.” “What? Five bucks!” “Yes, but it only cost you five dollars to learn his true character. It could have cost you a lot more.” So at the Last Judgment, we will learn the just severity of God’s punishment for this terrible crime.
Channel 2018: To my eye, this year brings many scandals, with many opportunities for God’s just punishment. The Internet has become a secular Last Judgment Network of its own. It reveals not only all the news that’s fit to print, but all the fake news to fuel our lust for entertainment and to reinforce our prejudices. Nevertheless, we need Channel 2018 of the Last Judgment Network to obtain the satisfying news of how all those scoundrels will be justly punished by God.
Of course, the number of channels in the Last Judgment Network will seem endless, but at least we can be certain of God’s justice – above all for our personal enemies.
On the other hand, we might be surprised. We might find that the worst of scoundrels made a good Confession or repented with the grace of a perfect contrition before expiring.
Maybe some of our dearest friends were far more vicious than we knew in this life and failed to make the cut. The reality behind this imaginary Last Judgment Network promises to be ever so interesting – but also very disturbing.
As I think about all the entertaining channels of the Last Judgment Network, there is one channel that gives me pause. At the moment, it’s channel 2033. According to the actuarial tables, my expected lifespan will extend to, perhaps, 2033. But as I push the limits of my metaphor, I’ll just have to wait and see.
In truth, I must admit I’m reluctant to ponder the imaginary Channel 2033. All the details of my entire life will also be revealed for all to see.
It will do me no good to plead that my life just wasn’t interesting enough for the Last Judgment Network. In its own uniquely individual way, every human life is fascinating in its drama, for better or for worse. And by 2033, I will have been reminded that taking delight in the punishment of sinners (temporal or eternal) can be just as much a sin as the other, boring ones on my list. My Last Judgment Network is just a twisted form of Schadenfreude.
So maybe it’s best we just get back to work, living our lives with God’s grace, the best way we know how, with the opportunities to do good and shun evil – above all by avoiding mortal sin: deep-seated hatreds and desires for revenge; mendacity; greed; avarice; calumny; hatred of God; the sexual sins; abortion; contraception; missing Sunday Mass; receiving Communion while in the state of mortal sin.
We know our secret shames. But we also know – or can know – the peace that comes with returning to God. Good Confessions always make a grand and praiseworthy appearance on the Last Judgment Network.
Devotion to the saving power of God must also be part of a good life. In 1991, Irving Kristol, a man of the Jewish faith, wrote: “though many people still go to church or synagogue for psychological reasons (consolation, hope, fear), very few educated people actually think that their immortal souls are at stake as a result of their beliefs or actions. Man’s immortal soul has become the victim of progress, replaced with the temporal ‘self’.”
The greatest scandal of all is the all-too-common presumption that we can indeed get away with mortal sin.
In surveying the evil and scandals that surround us, we must do what we can with the opportunities God gives us. But maybe we can begin by simply acknowledging this basic truth: God will not be mocked. It can be a consoling thought in a world of wickedness but it also provides the impetus to live a life worthily preparing for the judgment seat of God.
“If we please Him in this life, we shall receive the life to come; for he has promised us that he will raise us from the dead, and that, if we lead lives worthy of Him, we shall reign along with Him.” (Saint Polycarp in a letter to the Philippians)
*Image: Last Judgment by Franz Floris, 1565 [Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna]