Sunday, November 15, 2009

St. Albert the Great (1206-1280)

Albert the Great was a 13th-century German Dominican who influenced decisively the Church's stance toward Aristotelian philosophy brought to Europe by the spread of Islam. Students of philosophy know him as the master of Thomas Aquinas. Albert’s attempt to understand Aristotle’s writings established the climate in which Thomas Aquinas developed his synthesis of Greek wisdom and Christian theology. But Albert deserves recognition on his own merits as a curious, honest and diligent scholar. He was the eldest son of a powerful and wealthy German lord of military rank. He was educated in the liberal arts. Despite fierce family opposition, he entered the Dominican novitiate. His boundless interests prompted him to write a compendium of all knowledge: natural science, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, ethics, economics, politics and metaphysics. His explanation of learning took 20 years to complete. "Our intention," he said, "is to make all the aforesaid parts of knowledge intelligible to the Latins." He achieved his goal while serving as an educator at Paris and Cologne, as Dominican provincial and even as bishop of Regensburg for a short time. He defended the mendicant orders and preached the Crusade in Germany and Bohemia. Albert, a Doctor of the Church, is the patron of scientists and philosophers.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark (13.24-32)

Jesus said, in those days, following that distress, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

The Last Judgment
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

A person has applied for an advertised position, the upshot of which he knows will have a profound effect on his life. He has sent his curriculum vitae and the accompanying references, and very soon he must present himself before the selecting panel for his interview. The panel will make a judgment on his suitability over other candidates. The day looms and he prepares anxiously. So much will depend on it. Or again, after a few years of grinding and difficult work, a Ph.D. candidate is still uncertain of his thesis. But he must present it because his time is up. It will now be examined by three judges external to his University and his concern is considerable. Much depends on the acceptance of his thesis. His whole career will be affected by it. Or again, a person’s doctor has told him that there is something wrong with his lungs, and it does not look good. Indeed, it may be cancer. Tests must be taken, and then sent away for examination. All this is done and the person’s apprehension grows as the medical judgment is awaited. There are so many instances in life of a judgment being made, a judgment on which so much depends. Life is filled with tests, and in passing one we go on to yet another. In failing one we still have the opportunity of others. All of life is a scene of trials and tests. Some persons pass certain tests with distinction and achieve acclaim in certain spheres of activity. Amid all of this, though, there is a deeper test that most people are aware of, and that is the test of one’s very humanity. A person may have climbed from rags to riches, succeeding in test after test in his special line. But, at a deeper level, those around him know that he is not much of a man after all. He is self-centred and seems to have little sense of God. That is to say, there is a deeper test in life that is going on every day, and that is the moral test to which all are subject. This is the greatest test in life. It is present in all of life’s tests, and a man’s moral state will show if he is distinguishing himself in it. The supreme test that life presents is the test as to whether we are good, not much good, or even bad.

The fact that the life of everyone is made up of tests, especially moral tests, suggests to ordinary reflection that testing does not end with life. That is to say, the fact that all our life we are looking ahead to being tested in one sense or another, ought naturally lead us to expect a test beyond this life. Moreover, life ought intimate to us that this final test hereafter will be about the main issue, personal goodness. God has intervened in history to reveal himself and his plan for us, and at the forefront of his revelation is the confirmation that life indeed is a trial and that it will be consummated by a judgment when life is over. As happens so often during life, after life we shall be up for a judgment. This time, though, it will be the last we shall face. The judgment following death will determine the course of each soul for all eternity. Judgment will be pronounced on the one important thing in life: the goodness or evil of the soul. There will be no escaping the reward or the sentencing as the case may be. There will be no new opportunity beyond this. We have all this on the word of Christ as proclaimed by the Church. There will be either Heaven or Hell for each soul, with a further purification for many who are pronounced to be saved. But our Lord has also revealed, and he speaks of it in our Gospel today (Mark 13:24-32), that there will be a Last Judgment not merely for the individual, but for all together. All mankind will be gathered before the Judge. The judgment on those who have died will be confirmed, and the judgment on those still living will be uttered. This time, though, the resurrected body of each will at once share in the eternal retribution which the soul received at his or her particular judgment following death. To that point the soul will have undergone the reward or punishment due to him, but with this Last Judgment the resurrected body will now share in the lot of the soul. The whole person, body and soul will be with God forever, or lost forever, as the case may be. It is an awesome and solemn thought. Eternity for body and soul will depend on each person’s judgment, which in turn will have depended on each person’s life.

Christ has gone from sight, but he dwells among us in his body, the Church. As the Church’s Head he drives the mission of the Church, which is to bring redemption to all the nations. There is a tremendous urgency about the work, for each soul is the apple of God’s eye. At death comes the particular judgment of each. At the end of history Christ will come again - and he refers to it in our Gospel today. He will come as Judge of the living and the dead, and judgment will be pronounced on all. The mighty hand of God will cause a final parting of the ways, some - body and soul - to go up to be with him, and others to go down to be lost forever. Let us love and serve him, then!

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