The crisis of today is the refusal to believe in moral absolutes. We believe that truth cannot be known with certainty. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t!
Today we no longer have truth, we have opinions. And the question arises: How can one be a Christian who is a person of faith in absolutes, in this climate of disbelief, or at least uncertainty? What is right? What is wrong? Who is right? Who is wrong? Is there an absolute right and an absolute wrong or is everything relative?
And perhaps the most crucial question of all: Does man decide what is true or does he merely discover what is true? We can debate for sure about the national budget, how high the taxes should be or if we need to invest in infrastructure but we can not debate about objective truths and values because we don’t really make them. We discover truths and values and recognize their existence! We don’t vote on the gravity law, there is no reason to vote on it. We have to accept it! It may not be convenient but it is a reality and we have to deal with it. A value of human life is the similar type of truth it is an objective. Human life does have value. It is a fundamental truth. The only think we can do is to accept it.
The sin of our time is the believe that our strength is in the power to vote. That we can vote as truths whatever we want. Of course we can decide by vote without a deep understanding and reflection almost everything. Even if objectively what we decide is an absurd. We can decide there is no gravity or the human life doesn’t have an objective value but we are not able to change an objective truth. There is gravity and human life has value!
And yet, this has been to some degree the crisis of every age. As soon as you get more than one idea in your head you have to ask “Which is right?”
In this age of rejection of absolutes the Catholic Church is taking an unmerciful beating. The Church stands like a lofty mountain island in the midst of a constantly changing sea. The Church does not share the uncertainty of the world and goes on stubbornly proclaiming the truth she receives from Christ, in season and out of season. It is this conviction that she is passing on the truth God has revealed to her which gives her strength and confidence in the face of a disapproving world.
Look at her teaching on contraception and abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, homosexuality and same sex marriage and adoption of children by homosexual couples to take a contemporary example.
The Church takes no notice of how many people believe her teachings, or how many votes her teachings win her among the people. She has a mandate from Christ to teach the truth. Indeed, the Church teaches the truth as Christ is described as teaching it in Matthew 22:16: Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. That is how the Church teaches as well, because she teaches in the person of Christ and with the voice of Christ.
Let us now turn to the Gospel of today and listen to Christ teaching us. Let us accept his teaching as absolute and receive it with certainty.
Jesus said to his disciples …
Are you convinced that Jesus, who spoke these words 2000 years ago to his disciples, is still speaking them today to you – to all of us here in this church today? The word of Jesus does not go stale and out of date. Heaven and earth will pass away, says Jesus, but my words will not pass away.
When the Son of Man comes …
We note that Jesus is not speaking about a possibility here but a certainty, an absolute reality that we will all experience. He does not say if or maybe; he says when the Son of Man comes…
… in his glory.
This is an important matter. When Jesus came on earth 2000 years ago as the helpless infant born of the Virgin Mary, he came as the merciful Savior. Now however, Jesus is speaking about an entirely different time. Now he is speaking about the time when he will come no longer as merciful savior but as just Judge. This will be an absolute time of truth for the whole cosmos! Our God, who is truth, will gather all the angels and all the nations into his presence. He will be seated as King on his throne of glory. No longer the helpless infant of Bethlehem or the gentle lamb who opened not his mouth before his accusers during his Passion, now Jesus comes in glory with all the nations assembled before him.
It will be a terrible moment of truth because all that is hidden will be laid bare. As Jesus told his disciples in Luke 12:2: Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.
It will be a terrible moment of truth also because it cannot be avoided. We are used to having many options in our lives. We are able to choose what pleases us most and we are able, most often, to avoid what displeases us. It’s often as simple as changing the channel to avoid that unpleasant bit of film we don’t want to see. But when Jesus comes in his glory to judge the whole of creation we won’t be able to change the channel or take a sleeping pill. It will be a moment of reckoning, where whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops.
To conclude I make one more point. The presiding Judge, seated on his throne of Justice, will judge according to the two main commandments of the Law – love of God and love of neighbor.
It is always a temptation to reduce the moral life to love of neighbor or as we say in our church the social justice as a means to avoid or replace the love of God, things like personal prayer, study our faith, reading and praying Scripture, and going to Mass on Sunday, going to confession at least once a year and develop a personal relationship with God. This is not the intention of the parable at all.
Love of God is mentioned as a first commandment and love of neighbor is the second one.
It does not absolve us from our duty to love God nor should we allow it simply to reduce love of God to love of neighbor. Jesus told many parables and gave many teachings. Not only will those who refused food and clothing and love to the hungry, the naked and the lonely find themselves turned away from the Kingdom but also those who heard the word of God and failed to keep it, those who hid their talents, those who were not ready at the Master’s coming, those without a wedding garment, those who worshiped false gods, those who rejected Jesus as Savior.
But having said all that I think we would be foolish not to allow the message of this parable to sink deep into us. We will be judged according to the way we have loved God and neighbor. And one of the ways God loves to be loved is via our neighbor.
In a few moments we will pray the words of the Preface for this Mass. In that Preface we can find Christ’s mission statement. His mission statement of Christ is also our mission statement:
As king he claims dominion over all creation,
that he may present to you, his almighty Father,
an eternal and universal kingdom:
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
This means that we must be a people of truth, a people who protect the dignity of life in all of its forms. We must be a people liberated from the seductive lures of this world and who live fully in God’s gifts to us. We must be a people of justice, who love others without self-interest, and who work for peace.
How easy it is to say those lovely words! How hard it is to truly live them! But that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? For we know that with men and women living and working on their own it is impossible to live out those ideals. But with God, with Christ as our King, all things are possible. He was crucified, died, and rose from the dead to hand over His Spirit to us in order that, in the power of His Holy Spirit, we might eventually reveal His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.