Accountability by Monsignor Ferrarese

No one likes to be judged. In fact, nowadays, people cry out “you’re judging me!” as if it is an indictment tantamount to murder!

When it comes to God, we like a god who is affirming, involved and always reassuring. But that is not the God that Scripture reveals, including the words of Jesus who always warned about the coming judgement. We have constructed a ‘soft god’, a sort of ‘god-lite’, who is there when we want him, does not interfere with our lives and does whatever we want him to, when we want it and how we want it. A sort of ‘go-for’ god.

There is only one word for this god: idol. And it is expressly denounced in the first commandment given to Moses: “I am the Lord your God…You shall not have other gods beside me” (Exodus 20:2-3).

At the base of this false deity is the fear each of us has in regard to judgement. We like to feel secure. Judgement introduces a kind of insecurity in us. Thus, we invent a soft god that we think can give us security for our entrance into heaven when we die.

Of course, this is a lie we tell ourselves and has no basis in truth. Allied with this is the equally false understanding that if God is a judge then it diminishes God and makes Him a petty tyrant.

That we are to be judged, first of all, means that we are important to God and that our behavior counts. What we do and the reason we do things is important to God because we are cherished by God. He expects goodness because He knows of what we are capable of. This love of God comes first of all. We begin with love and with God’s love come expectations since He has made us capable of great things. This view does not diminish us, it ennobles us! It also says a great deal about the goodness of God and His paternal care of creation.

I knew of a young man who was haunted by the words of his father whenever he tried something new: “You are not capable of this”. Now I know we often sin the other way: follow your dream—there is nothing you are not able to do if you just believe. That is hogwash as well. But a fathers’ realistic hopes for his son or daughter is a sign of love and trust. Remember the words of the Father at the Baptism of Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17)! In His humanity, Jesus was energized by this affirmation and His public ministry that He began after the Baptism was given a real boost by the Father (not to mention with the Father’s bestowal of the Holy Spirit on His Son!).

God loves us as well and expects us to do the right things in life that He has commanded. That He would hold us accountable for our role in creation is another demonstration of love by our Father in heaven.

How He trusts us! This is one of the amazing facts concerning our Father in Heaven. Even in spite of our repeated failures and outright betrayals, He still trusts us to do the right thing. I have often thought how dumb the King was in that parable of the Lord that said that even after the tenants abused and killed the messengers of the King, he sent his son (cf. Matthew 21:33-46)! Who of us would ever do that? What love he must have had for those miserable tenants! Yet the mercy and trust of the King is so great that even when we do not deserve His mercy, He gives it.

Understood in this context, one feels both an unworthiness and a zeal for the coming judgement. We are important to God and what we have done and failed to do for the other persons that He loves is important as well.

I remember a dream that a famous poet had about God’s judgement. He was actually living a very immoral life and, in this dream, he approached God for his judgement. God then began to sing the poems he would have written if he had been good in this earthly life! If that does not put the fear of God into you, then you are not even in the right ballpark!

All is written in the book of our life. Every incident, however small, is recorded. That is how important our lives are, even the most obscure and humble of us. That we are accountable to God for how we live the life He has given us is a sign, already, of His mercy.

Because of our weakness and need for God, our attitude both before our death and afterwards should be a call for mercy in God’s judgment. How readily God must receive this call, since as our Father He longs to bestow eternal life with Him. Let not our pride get in the way. Humility is not only the foundation of the spiritual life while we walk this earth, it is the fundamental attitude that God longs for when we are face to face with God.

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