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We are judged on the merits of our lives

Photo of Fr. Brankin. Go to Fr. Brankin's bio.Second Sunday of Easter
Fr. Anthony Brankin


The Sunday after Easter and the glow of from the Resurrection has not dimmed. Our meditations about the Resurrection of Jesus—the promise of life eternal, the hope of our own resurrection—the implications for our own lives have actually increased. God loves us so much that He would accept the death of His own Son so that we might live forever.

And what does this “living forever” mean? What is this eternal life of which we are always speaking? It means that at the end of our lives on earth—when our souls leave our bodies because of illness or accident or even old age (and that is the definition of death)—our souls travel to where God is and we are brought into the Presence of God. There we are judged on the merits of our lives. This is called the Particular Judgment. And it will happen to each of us at the moment of our death.

Now, at the Particular Judgment, if we are guilty of unforgiven mortal sins we will then be condemned to hell forever. On the other hand, if at the time of our death we are perfectly good and have no sins or even punishment to make up for, then we are brought immediately to Heaven. If God judges that at the end of our lives we had been forgiven of our sins but still merit some punishment for those sins, then we are brought to Purgatory where our souls will be purified by means of suffering.

When Jesus comes a second time, this will be the End of the World. There is no “rapture.” The Second Coming is the End of the World. On this day God will send all the souls—whether they were in heaven or hell—back to their bodies. The damned will suffer body and soul forever in hell. The saved, including the souls in Purgatory, will rejoice body and soul forever in Heaven. Our bodies will be ours—but they will be perfect in age, health, and appearance. We will never more suffer, get sick, or die. We will receive the happiness that Adam and Eve had forfeited and which Jesus Christ won for us by His Suffering, Death, and Resurrection.

How do we get saved? How do we manage to be numbered among those who are going to Heaven? How do we avoid hell? Easy. We must ask for forgiveness for our sins. And how do we do this? We partake of the Sacrament of Confession, which Our Lord gave to us only days after He rose from the dead. He gave to the Apostles and priests the power to pardon from sins when He told them “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive—they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall not forgive—they are not forgiven.” This is the Institution of the Sacrament of Confession.

Jesus wanted us to know that when we tell the priest our sins, we are telling them to Jesus, and we hear the words of Jesus, “I absolve you. I forgive you;” these also are the words of Jesus—forgiving us. But of course. That is why Jesus conquered death for us, so that he could conquer sin for us. When sins are absolved in Confession, they are removed, cleansed, obliterated so to speak and so completely that—after Confession the sins no longer exist.

My brother Pat is a priest in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is also the Exorcist for the Diocese of Tulsa. He tells me about some of the things that happen as he tries to drive the demons out of a person. What he has seen does not frighten him, but it actually strengthens him in all his Catholic beliefs.  The other day, he told me that the demons know many things. They know many things about the priest or about the person who is possessed. This is called occult knowledge—hidden knowledge. The demon uses that knowledge to demoralize and frighten the person and the priest.

But, my brother tells me, the demon is unaware of anything that had ever been confessed and forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession. The demon has no knowledge of those sins, because those sins are forgiven and they no longer exist. The demon cannot use those sins against a person, because he is ignorant of them. They have been forgiven, erased, cancelled.

My brother, when he battles the demon in exorcisms, understands that the Sacrament of Confession makes our souls as pure and innocent as they were when they were washed clean in Baptism. That is how powerful Confession is—that is how powerful God is. Jesus conquers death in the Resurrection, and he gives us the chance to join His victory by conquering sin in our lives. And that is Confession.

When you think about it, if Jesus had not risen from the dead on Easter Sunday, not only would our faith have been in vain but we would surely have died in our sins. The season of Easter lasts so long because the victory over sin and death is such great news that it could not be expressed on only one Sunday. It will take a lifetime to do it properly. We better begin today.

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