During decades speaking on radio, appearing on his Life Is Worth Living television series, and writing dozens of books, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen made certain to highlight the Four Last Things — death, judgment, heaven and hell.
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day provide the perfect backdrop for a small fraction of what he taught in his unassailable way on these four last things — plus purgatory.
With death and judgment leading the list, Sheen sets the scene, noting how Our Lord gave us the Eucharist, his flesh and blood, which implies the resurrection of the body. First, we face the Four Last Things.
The route begins early. “A happy death is a masterpiece, and no masterpiece was ever perfected in a day,” Sheen said. People fear death chiefly because they “are not prepared for it.” On the other hand, “Death is a beautiful thing for him who dies before he dies, by dying daily to the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.”
The soon-to-be beatified archbishop counseled, “When one leads a mortified life in Christ, death does not come like a thief in the night, taking one by surprise. We die daily; thus, we rehearse,” because “it is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Then comes particular judgment. “You are a person and are individually responsible for your acts,” Sheen explained. “Your works follow you.” The general judgment at the end of the world takes place because you “worked out your salvation in the context of the social order and the Mystical Body of Christ; therefore, you must be judged with all men.”
Sheen described how, at the resurrection of the dead, the soul will have a body conforming to the soul’s spiritual condition. It “will be glorious, if the soul is saved; and miserable, if the soul is lost. … Our bodies have shared in the condition of our souls and will share in their glory or shame.”
The Particular Judgment
Archbishop Sheen explained that the particular judgment will be “an evaluation of ourselves just as we really are.”
This judgment will lead to the next destination, he advises: “Three possible destinies await you at death and judgment: hell, which is pain without love; purgatory, pain with love; and heaven, love without pain.”
During life there seems like “several persons in us” — who we think we are, who others believe we are, and who we really are. It’s easy “to believe our press notices and publicity” instead of judging by “eternal truth.” But, he said, we “are what we are not by our emotions, feelings, likes or dislikes, but by our choices or decisions.”
Our particular judgment will be made “on the way we lived, on the choices we made, on the things we loved.” Sheen prompted serious contemplation: “Do not think when you go before the judgment seat of God that you will argue a case. You will plead no extenuating circumstances; you will not ask for a new trial or a new jury; you will be your own judge! You will be your own jury. As Scripture says, ‘We will be condemned out of our own mouths’ (Matthew 12:37). God will merely seal our judgment.”
If Our Lord sees in a soul in grace “the resemblance of His nature,” like a parent who sees family traits in his or her child, then “seeing in our souls His divine likeness, He says to us, Come, ye blessed of My Father I have taught you to pray ‘Our Father.’ I am the natural Son, you the adopted son; come into the Kingdom I have prepared for you from all eternity” (Matthew 25:34).
But the soul in mortal sin, without grace, doesn’t “possess the family traits of the Trinity.” Seeing no likeness in that soul, Our Lord “can only say those terrible words which signify no recognition: I know you not!” (Luke 13:25).
The soul in mortal sin, “dead to divine life, casts itself into hell just as naturally as a stone released from my hand falls to the ground,” Sheen explains. The spotless soul “full of divine love and without any temporal punishment due to its sins is like a bird released from its cage; it flies to heaven.”
Venial sin is another story. The soul says, “Give me time to clean up.”
Read more at National Catholic Register