Collect of the Day:
Father in restoring Human nature you have given us a greater dignity than we had in the beginning. Keep us in your love and continue to sustain those who have received new life in baptism.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ your Son Our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever One God world without end. Amen.
The First Reading: Acts of the Apostles: 13:13-25: God has raised up one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour.
The Gospel: John: 13:16-20: Whoever receives the one I send, receives Me.
Today I am going to change our routine a little and not reflect on any of the readings of the day. Instead I am going to start a series of reflections on a subject that has gone out of vogue a little in recent times but used to be the subject of many a quiet day or retreat. This subject is ‘The Four Last Things’, to some this will be a very familiar theme indeed, to others they may well wonder what these Four Last Things actually are. They are DEATH, JUDGEMENT, HEAVEN or HELL.
Death: Death is a very uncomfortable subject to raise with people. Most of us like to avoid thinking of our own mortality. Death we most seem to think is something that happens to other people but not to us or as St. Jerome eloquently puts it:
“Every day we are changing, every day we are dying, and yet we fancy ourselves eternal.”
We live in a society that is now often sanitised to the subject of death and to a degree, serious illness. The sick and the dying are neatly tucked away in hospitals, out of sight and out of mind. Today a person can grow into Middle Age and never have come into contact with a dead body. This was not the case a generation or two ago. Often people had their sick or death bed in the home and especially in the Northern Hemisphere bodies were often left in the house for a viewing after death had occurred. So signs of a persons mortality were all around to see, so therefore not terribly far from the mind.
Actually when we consider it as soon as we are born we begin our journey towards death. As morbid as this sounds it is a pure and objective fact. This reflection is not meant to depress you or scare you, but to remind you that our time here is short and what we do here during our lives has a consequence for our eternal well being. St. Francis noted:
“Pleasure is short, but punishment is eternal; suffering is small compared to infinite glory; retribution comes to all.”
While nearly everyone is at least a little frightened of death and passing into the great unknown, we all know no one can live indefinitely. Death need not be a shadow over us once properly understood and put in context with the other elements of our Faith and our life, to a Christian, death is the gateway into Eternal Life. St. Aphrahat tells us:
“The upright, righteous, good, and wise neither fear nor tremble at death, because of the great hope that is before them (Eternal Life). And at all times they are mindful of death, their exodus, and of the Last Day, when the children of Adam shall be Judged.”
The author of the prayer attributed to St. Francis tells us that:
“It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”
But most of all we have the comforting and well known words of Our Blessed Lord Himself:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
So the aim of our reflection tonight is that we can come to an acceptance of our own impending deaths. Neither seeking it or fearing it, rather accepting it in accord to the hope and teachings of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour. Once we do this we can embrace life with a new enthusiasm, and begin to understand what Christ meant when he said:
“I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”
Tomorrow we will discuss the second last thing, Judgement.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light!
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.