“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14). Will there be a dress code for our Particular Judgment? Read on ….
Imagine, If You Will …
Picture this: you have been standing in line for Reconciliation in your underwear (a common dream among Catholics). Upon your entrance into the confessional, the priest says, “My friend, how did you get in here without any clothes to speak of?” Would you be speechless, or would you explain yourself? Most likely, you would proceed to explain the anomaly, and include it with the rest of your sins. If you said nothing, you would most likely be asked to leave, and return when you are properly clothed and ready to confess your sins and receive absolution.
Now picture yourself receiving an invitation to an exclusive wedding reception given by visiting royalty. The gold-leaf parchment, hand-delivered by an emissary, requests formal attire and shimmers in your hand as you read it. On the way, you are robbed and stripped of your clothes. You manage to find some jeans and a tee shirt in the trunk and proceed to pull up to a line of limousines. You still have time to turn around and avoid embarrassment, but decide to proceed. The hosts greet you at the door and ask what happened. They listen with empathy and you are directed at once to a guest room replete with formal wear in your size.
At the Particular Judgment
Lastly, imagine awakening from the sleep of death and encountering Christ immediately. This encounter, referred to as The Particular Judgment, will determine your soul’s final destiny. How will you be greeted? Will Jesus address you as a friend? Will He be fair in his judgment of you? Will you accept His divine grace or reject it? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul—a destiny which can be different for some and for others. (CCC 1021)
The following paragraph explains further:
Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately,—or immediate and everlasting damnation. (CCC 1022)
Instead of thinking of appearing before a harsh judge in criminal court, try imagining a judge in a beauty contest or athletic event. In the two latter examples, the approach is respectful of your accomplishments and judgments are made according to your performance. If you were to exclude yourself from such judgment (eliminating yourself by leaving before your scores are announced), you would forfeit your reward and be separated from the rest of the contestants. The acceptance of the Judge (or judges) is a vital and necessary part of receiving recompense and reward. Judges in contests don’t offer mercy after a poor performance, but Jesus does! Is it fair to compare life, death, and judgment to a contest? St. Paul seems to think so: “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Clothe Yourselves with Love
So, what will you wear to your Particular Judgment, and how will you conduct yourself? A few more quotes from Sacred Scripture might help you decide:
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:14)
Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)
Let us pray to be properly clothed, and ready to give an honest accounting for the hope that we have been given in Christ.