Moving on in today’s Gospel from the first to the last verses, from John Chapter 5 verse 25 on to verses 28 and 29: The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice: and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life: and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Our Lord is speaking now of what is to come, of the physical resurrection, where his work as Saviour will be completed by his work as Judge.
Human beings will experience two judgements, first an individual judgement at the moment of death and second the general judgement which completes the first. At this Last Judgement on the day of Christ’s Return our individual destinies will be woven into those of all people and of the cosmos itself.
Hope in the face of that judgement is built on both the first and middle verses of today’s Gospel.
If, in the deadness of your soul, you’ve heard the voice of the Son of God you’ve experienced a coming to life in your soul and you don’t need to fear death and judgement. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
Then, reading the middle two verses of the Gospel, as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself: and hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of Man. You might think God would see his Son’s suitability to judge the world in his being his Son, the Son of God but, no, in a phrase quite astonishing we’re told it’s his being Son of Man that fits him for that task. The Son is equipped to preside at the Last Judgement not because of his divinity but on account of his humanity.
You and I won’t be judged by the unthinkable standard of God but by the standard of humanity seen in Jesus Christ. Hence two beautiful verses that leap out from the awesome text of the Dies Irae of Requiem Mass:
Think, kind Jesus, my salvation caused thy wondrous incarnation:
leave me not to reprobation.
Faint and weary thou hast sought me: on the Cross of suffering bought me:
shall such grace be vainly brought me?
On All Souls Day the Dies Irae together with our black vestments sober us to face up to the enormity of death and judgement. The Epistle and Gospel remind us of grace, that death and favourable judgement for Christians have passed already which is the greatest good news. What could be better news than that we celebrate this evening? The only meaningful thing in life is what conquers death, and not what but Who!
Let the saintly Bishop John Austin Baker have the last word: I rest on God, who will assuredly not allow me to find the meaning of life in his love and forgiveness, to be wholly dependent on him for the gift of myself, and then destroy that meaning, revoke that gift. He who holds me in existence now can and will hold me in it still, through and beyond the dissolution of my mortal frame. For this is the essence of love, to affirm the right of the beloved to exist. And what God affirms, nothing and no-one can contradict.