The Gospel is a frightening one, and the final line is outright terrifying: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Matthew tells us what it is like to stand before the Son of Man. Have I given food to my hungry brothers and sisters, or provided for them in their need, or cared for them when they’re sick, or visited them in prison? Just to get to that point, we must survive great suffering. Since we don’t know when it will happen, we must be prepared to face judgment at all times. We have been warned! Let Paul’s words comfort us, lest we despair. The one who judges is also the one who comes to our assistance. When Paul prays that the Christian in Thessaloniki be made blameless for the judgment, he prays to the Lord. The judge himself will strengthen us for the last judgment. It’s like being given the answers to our final exam! We know what we must do; we must act accordingly, “increase(ing) and abound(ing) in love for one another and for all” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). How do we do this? Perhaps the secret to preparing for the Lord’s coming – at Christmas, at the Last Judgment, or fully into our hearts – is to act as if the Lord is already here. After all, he is. Do we see the Lord in our brother and sister in need? The more willingly we see the Lord in our neighbor, the more easily we love those whom we would otherwise overlook, dismiss, or outright reject. How easily do we focus our love solely on our own loved ones, or, worse, just ourselves? May we see Jesus in all those in need and act accordingly. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2021).