There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reachin’ down
When the man comes around – Johnny Cash
I grew up a Mississippi Protestant surrounded by hellfire and brimstone preachers who often preached the question, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?” Such a phrase was regularly followed by an altar call and we’d all go down to accept Jesus in our hearts even if we had already done so the previous week (just in case!).
So it was with great interest that I read where Pope Francis recently asked a similar question. He said, “It would be nice to think a little bit: one day will be the last. If it was today, am I prepared?” It is a good question to consider and it transported me back in time. One of these days is going to be our last – nothing is more factual than that. Are we ready?
I want to be ready when Jesus comes
I want to be ready when Jesus comes
One day the Lord’s gonna crack the sky
and the dead in Christ shall rise – Dottie Peoples
Like many, I am not inclined to talk a lot about the judgment of God. I prefer faith, hope, and love. I prefer to ponder the great depth of God’s self-emptying love. I’d rather write about, teach about, sing about His amazing grace. I don’t want the Church to scare people into faith; I’d rather we love them there.
Besides, most of the people I know who fear the judgment of God seem to have the least to worry. So too much talk about God’s wrath can feel like piling on.
But make no mistake, God is coming. By death or cracked sky, we will all meet our Maker and be judged. He will come back to put the world to rights. Justice will be served and His kingdom will reign forever.
Are you ready?
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola is one of the great works of Christian spirituality in the history of the Church. It is a spiritual retreat meant to help with discernment and growth in God. It’s a foundational text for members of The Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
At the very beginning of these exercises, St. Ignatius writes a ‘presupposition’ – a disposition to be assumed by both the one who is giving the exercises and the one who is receiving them. He writes: “To assure better cooperation between the one who is giving the Exercises and the exercitant, and more beneficial results for both, it is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false. If an orthodox construction cannot be put on a proposition, the one who made it should be asked how he understands it. If he is in error, he should be corrected with all kindness. If this does not suffice, all appropriate means should be used to bring him to a correct interpretation, and so to defend the proposition from error.”
I was reminded of this quote while reading a news article on a current dispute in the Church and it made me realize that this presupposition is something that is especially relevant today. We are living in divided times and much of it is facilitated by the explosive growth in communications and the saturation of information as a result. Miscommunication is commonplace and shouting over each other too often trumps reasoned and respectful dialogue. As a result, cynicism (the general distrust of others and their motivations) is on the rise.
We can’t let this happen in the Church. As St. Ignatius instructs, we should not slip into the disposition of assuming the worst of anyone, above all our sisters and brothers in Christ. Certainly we all have mixed and sometimes ill-willed motivations, but to start with that supposition, particularly of those with whom we have theological or political agreements, will only hurt the Body of Christ. It takes intention and mindfulness, but may we all take St. Ignatius to heart and commit to being generous in our assumptions about others.