From Father Steven - November 14, 2021
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
This Sunday’s Gospel speaks about the end of times. As scary it may seem for people to speak about the end of times, or even to speak about death itself, the Christians have always lived it in their daily lives. Death should not be taboo or a subject to be avoided, it should be prepared for, so we are not caught up at night like a thief.
The first Christian communities formed by the Apostles have always lived the reality and the urgency of being prepared for the second coming of Christ. The community of Thessalonians believed it so hard that they even stopped working, because they thought that the end of times was so imminent. However, the end of times did not frighten them, although all the allegorical imagery could be scary. For them, as for St. Paul, the end of their lives was “profit”, the fulfillment of their desire to be with God. This is how all the Christians have always confronted the end of their lives. Death was not the end, but only the “passage” to eternal life. Indeed, in the language of the Church, the day of the death of someone is referred as “dies natalis” (day of their birth), as we believe that death leads to Eternal Life.
God always prepares His people to enter heaven throughout their lives. He does not want to lose anyone in the process, which, by our free will, we can choose to refuse it. Nowadays, one may say that there is a sort of presumption regarding salvation. There is the common belief that if someone was a good person that they go to heaven. Nowhere in the Bible do we hear that to enter heaven someone has to be a good person. Certainly, a good moral life will be a natural consequence of living a Christian life, but it’s not the main requisite. We heard last week that we are all called to LOVE GOD ABOVE EVERYTHING else and our neighbor. We will be judged based on that. That means that there is nothing that can be placed between God and us. No football games, day on the beach, work, family events, or any other reasons that should prevent us from going to church. In all our actions there is always a deliberate consent of the will to choose other things over God. Yes, there may be extenuating factors, but they never justify us from choosing something contrary to God, as we call it “sin”. We forget that there is such a reality of sin, yes, there is still such a thing as a mortal sin, grave matter. We don’t speak as much about it as it was in the past. For that matter, we don’t speak much about the preparation for death, because we don’t like to think about death. However, we do have to think if we are prepared for death. Are we repented, and have asked God’s forgiveness through confession, have we reconciled with others? The Church has always believed that a person who dies purposely unrepented in state of mortal sin, denies the mercy of God, and it “forces” God to respect their decision to prefer sin over God. Unfortunately, there is not much He can do, besides giving us as many chances as possible in this life.
By way of admonishing us and reminding us that one day we will die, maybe sooner than we think, is that God allows moments in our lives to reflect upon the end of our lives. It is difficult to understand why such a loving God allows a person to be sick, or have a terminal illness, or a bad accident. However, those are means that God also uses to help us be ready for death. We don’t know how much time we still have in our lives. We think we will live forever, that there is always time to make up to God. It is by extreme means that we are helped to be reminded that we are beings walking towards death. But this death is not the end of the road, where everything is over. It is the opposite indeed. It is the moment for which we were created. Death in theology is defined by the separation of body and soul only. It is the moment in which we no longer have to struggle with a life where God is veiled, where we are limited by sinful inclinations. It is the greatest moment of freedom in which we are freed from the burdens of this world to live the fullness of joy that Christ has won over for those who much desire.
Therefore, Brothers and Sisters, take advantage of the time which we still have to abandon our sins. Let’s turn to him with all our hearts. No matter what was done in the past, GOD WANTS US TO GO TO HEAVEN so bad that He sent his Son to make it possible. As the prophet Ezekiel says, God does not wish the sinner to die, but to turn back to him and live! (Ez 33:11)
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Father Steven Clemence