A few things that have happened recently have had me thinking more about outcomes in life and eternal life. I didn’t get to Mass on Sunday but THIS WAS A GOOD READ on the Scriptures for that day. Then this morning I was reading about how in New York they have grown so dim as to not understand the fast chasm of difference between palliative care and killing the patient. Even in this horrible brain-fog state I still know the difference; what IS their excuse?
One comment said that we need more instruction on the Four Last Things and I think that is true. I have never heard anything about them in Church. In fact the last time I heard anyone speak on the matter it was Fr John Corapi’s little series. I like his talks because they are clear for someone who needs it-like me. The comment also mentioned that if people understood these matters better they wouldn’t be so afraid of death.
The Four Last Things are Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
Death gets a bad rap I think. Let’s put aside the dark and scary paganised view of it and have a look at it from a Christian point of view. First of all, we all have to go through it. We all die. Some people have to do it twice. Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow of Naim, that lad Elijah got God to raise and there a loads more.
One of my favourite resurrection stories is the one so well retold by Louis de Wohl in Lay Siege to Heaven: Plauge has hit Sienna hard and Catherine and her fellow sisters are working night and day to care for the sick, help with the dead and generally try and keep the plague contained. The monasteries and convents of those days were packed with unsung heroes who did this work on a regular basis. Anyway the doctor at the hospital had finally succumbed and died of plague. Catherine had been busy with the sick and was told of the loss of the doctor. She went to his room where he was lying dead in his bed and essentially told him off because there was still work to do. I think she was telling her Spouse what she thought in no uncertain terms too. She called on Christ and He answered her. The doctor got up, perfectly well and continued his work. I can’t help wondering if the poor man was a bit cross about it; (de Wohl doesn’t say).
The angels of death are Gabriel and Michael who are both seen with interchangeable roles on justice and mercy. Along with that we know we have our guardian angels to help us die well and for those who love her, Our Blessed Mother will always be there. We can’t say we are hard done by.
I think though that for many of us, death itself isn’t the problem. We aren’t that scared of death, but the process of dying is more worrying. But many of us have seen people dying and been with them right to the end, and it’s fine. My parish priest talked about this a few weeks ago and he said he thought we were too sanitized from the whole death thing; we don’t see enough of it; we stay away from those at that point in their lives- and that only makes it scarier not easier. Ask any cancer patient whether they lost friends because of the ‘C’ word with it’s ‘D’ word connotations and they will tell you they did. That’s so sad. Don’t be afraid people, and anyway, you have the next of the Four to worry about.
As soon as we die we will face our particular judgement where we come fact to face with Jesus. We get to ask for mercy and God is merciful. There is a basic rule of thumb that Christ taught us; show mercy, get mercy- refuse mercy, get judgement.
Jesus talks about the narrow gate to heaven but He does tell us how to get there. In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 23+) we see that the man who had been forgiven did not show mercy to the other servant so he receives judgement and must pay his debt from prison. When he has paid he will be released hence purgatory is God’s mercy.
But Jesus leaves us with some straight forward ways of heading for that narrow pearly gate; We have the old Ten Commandments; the beatitudes and the works of mercy. He reminds us that we must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison. So, if we are giving ourselves for others- pouring ourselves out as He did, then we get mercy. If we are sitting at home in front to the telly and forgetting the needs of others; we’ll get judgement.
Don’t get into the lazy view that hell is only for the Hitlers and Stalins of this world. Start comparing yourself to the saints and see how well you come off! It’s darned uncomfortable, but it is good for the soul.
Mary told the servants “Do whatever He tells you.” She never said “Do whatever you find comfortable from what He tells you.” So pay attention. Jesus makes it clear that just going to church (eating and drinking with Him (Luke 13:22-30)) you have to walk the walk and talk the talk.
There is no doubt about it, that road uphill to the Gate of Heaven is hard work and there’s the cross we are supposed to carry too. But it’s worth it, because His Mercy is life.
At the end we will get the biggie Judgement that has seen so much art allocated to it. Jesus will come in glory and as the Creed tells us “will judge the living and the dead.” In the General Judgement I think we get to see all the saints and sinners separated and sent to their final reward, which each will have chosen for him and herself; heaven or hell. There is also the resurrection of the body at this point. Christians are holistic not dualistic (at least orthodox Christians are) so we are fully human as body and soul.
Jesus says to those on His right that He is well pleased because they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned; basically gave huge amounts of their time, self, stuff and money for the care of their family and those God put in their way that needed a hand with their cross. I believe that every single one of us gets opportunities to sacrifice like this and we HAVE to take them.
Then we get all that love and mercy poured out on us as we get to heaven. There are no ‘get into heaven free’ cards. Being in the Presence of God is a matter of choice. We are not forced to go to heaven, we can choose not to, but we can choose to make as much heaven as possible here in the Lacrimarum Valle for those who come into our lives.
Finally those who have done this and who have had the rest burned up in purgatory leaving only the gold (1 C0r 3: 12-15) can stand in perfect love with God for eternity. We get to live with Him as whole persons, body and soul. So far only Jesus and Mary are whole in this way.
We can only be in Heaven when we are pure and spotless. Nothing unholy can live in His Presence. If we make it though we will be so filled with love that there will be no more room for suffering of any kind.
Jesus talked about hell rather a lot. There is no point trying to kid yourself such a state of existence doesn’t happen. If He said it does, it does. Many saints over the years have had the dubious privilege of visiting or at least seeing it. They have given us plenty of warning about it. Just from our Family Litany of Saints we have St Theresa of Avila who saw the place made ready for her from birth. The devils really do hate us. St John Bosco (my husband’s patron) also visited hell so that he would be better equipped to help prevent some of his boys from ending up there. St Faustina saw it too.
We also know the three children of Fatima were allowed to see hell which helped them pray so much for sinners so that they might avoid it.
(Obviously this is private revelation not public, but it’s worth taking note of).
People often create hell around them during their lifetime and you really can take it with you.
Jesus warned that the way down is broad and lots of people just flow in that direction because it seems so much easier. It’s such a bother having to think about other people. Why not do whatever feels good to you, so long as you are nice sometimes, what’s the problem?
And so they slide down lazily into the wide open maw and then blame God for their chosen predicament. I have been astonished at people I have seen on the net who openly express their ambition to go to hell. They hate God and don’t want to be anywhere near Him. I don’t get that. Our Lady has warned that sexual sins get a lot of people into trouble. We allow so much of it. What’s the harm in a bit of adultery, porn, sleeping around, contraception, and killing off the children who result from it all?
We don’t know who is in hell. The Church has never named a single person as damned. The nearest we could get to a good guess might be Judas because Jesus told him it would have been better for him if he had never been born; but even that might be more a message to the rest of us on the importance of repentance. For all we know as Judas hung from the tree he may just have lived long enough to say sorry. We can hope so.
All I can say is this; if God gives you a cross, carry it. If you see others with crosses, help them. Don’t spend your time doing what you want and what is convenient for you. Have a good hard look at how you are doing stuff each day. How much of it is really what God is asking of you and how much is actually you trying to look Christian without actually having to DO it? Please be aware.
I really hope that one day He can say to me, “Look, you are a right sinner, but you tried to follow Me, so here’s a small corner of heaven for you after you get cleaned up.”
And I will say “Thank You for Your Mercy!!”