What if?

What follows teaches us that he will come for judgement. For a fire will go before him (Ps 96[97]:3). Are we afraid? Let us change and we will not be afraid. The chaff fears the fire, but what does fire do to gold? You now have it in your power to do what should be done so that you do not experience as an unrepentant sinner what is going to come even if you dont want it to come. If we were able to prevent the day of judgement from coming, I think that even so it would not be right to live wickedly. If fire were not to come on Judgement Day and sinners were threatened only by separation from the face of God, they would still have to mourn no matter how great the flood of delights they might enjoy, no matter that they might never be punished for their sins, because they would not see the one by whom they were created and would not know the ineffable pleasure of seeing the face of God. But what am I saying? To whom am I saying it? That would be a punishment for lovers, but not for despisers. Those who have begun to experience at all the pleasure of wisdom and truth know what I am talking about, that is, what a great punishment it is simply to be separated from the face of God. As for those who have not experienced that pleasure, if they still dont desire Gods face, at least let them fear the fire. Let the punishment terrify those whom the reward does not attract. (En in Ps 49, 7; PL 36, 569)

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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