This is a continuation of the the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God, the previous posts are available in the archives to the right. This is step 44.
(44) To fear the day of judgment.
A recent visit to a large Midwestern city was filled with moments where I paused to think about the tragedies of September 11, 2001 and what could happen again or as the United States government often relates-something worst. One of the buildings in this city, that towers over all the rest is especially impressive and the thought of it tumbling like the World Trade Centers was almost incomprehensible. Milling around the streets with thousands of others it was hard to envision some nuclear attack suddenly wiping out a million people in an instance.
Although the sun shone and it was a beautiful day there was a hint of an impending storm that post-9/11 seemed to hang heavy in the air. It made me think of the words of Our Lord when his disciples marveled at the size of the Temple in Jerusalem and its beauty (it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down,” (Luke 21:7).
Driving home past abandoned motels and gas stations, I thought of the transitory nature of life. People that I once admired now lie cold in tombs, amusement parks that delighted me as a child now lie dormant, everything has a judgment day, everything!
St. Benedict says we should “fear” the day of judgment. It should be something ever on our minds. To keep “our” final end in sight has always been an important practice because it helps us to “order” our lives to that end. Most of us can point to our greatest lapses or sins as times when we had lost sight of our purpose in life.
Fear can be a horrible motivator or it can be a great one. When I was in basic training in the Army some years ago, I remember an incident where one of my fellow trainees was having difficulty producing urine for some medical procedure. He came out to the drill sergeant holding the empty container. The drill sergeant in response yelled in his face, “Go!” And he did, as the front of his fatigues darkened. I saw him a few minutes later squeezing what he could out of his pants into the container.
But Jesus also said, “Fear is useless, what is need is trust,” and while fearing judgment day can help us to refocus on what truly matters and what the right thing to do is in any situation, ultimately it should always lead us back to placing our trust in God. Fearing judgment should always drop us to our knees and reconnect with God. Every moment is an invitation to prayer and every second has its own needs that require that special help from God.
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