Our readings at Mass this morning focus on the end times. In Daniel we hear of a terrible conflict between good and evil before the consummation of history. Jesus’ suggests this will occur when he returns to judge the living and the dead.
The return of Christ at the end of time has always captured the imagination. What will it be like? Whenwill Jesus return? Many have guessed but he himself says, “Nobody knows”So we would be wise to tell the loonies to get a grip. To stop obsessing and fussing about freemason plots to take over the world as predicted via visions of Our Lady of X! This sort of babble is widespread but often superstitious and unhelpful. God does not call us, with good reason, to be paranoid weirdos detached from reality like David Ike. He calls us to be Saints; our duty as Christians then is not to predict an unknowable future but to live lives of holiness in the present.
Living by faith in the present to ensure we need not fear the future is sage advice even if Armageddon doesn’t come on our watch. Because there are, in truth, two end times. An ultimate end times of the world none can know. But also an individual end time- the moment of our death. And again the Saints not the lunatics will be prepared for it. And that moment could come sooner than we think. Anyone of us could step in front of a bus tomorrow or have an undiagnosed condition that kills us by next week.
Are you ready for death? Are you ready to stand before God and be judged. Because, make no mistake, the bible is quite clear that judgement awaits. At the moment of death an immediate judgement takes place; the truly wicked go to hell, the truly sanctified to heaven. The rest, most of us probably, await a final day of judgment and must go through purgatory to enter heaven. These are the souls we pray for. So beware putting off repentance, confession, the healing of broken relationships; you may never get a chance again. Live today as if it is your last day.
I once counselled a man whose father died in a car crash when he was 15. The last words his father said, in a moment of petulance, “I hate you”. Words he almost certainly didn’t mean but which, nevertheless, cut into that son’s heart and soul for the next thirty years. Do your loved ones know you love them? Why maintain the petty feud with great aunty Maud…or whoever? Jesus says be ready- not because he wants us living in fear -but because he wants living by faith. For only those who live by faith fear nothing tomorrow!
And a good discipline is to consider what you will say when God asks you to account for your life? Many, I suspect, will feel embarrassed not because they were given over to evil, per se, but because they squandered a life being selfish and thoroughly boring. Will God be impressed that you never missed an episode of Strictly Come Dancing…whilst the hungry needed volunteers at the local soup kitchen? Will he delight in the hours spent manicuring your lawn that could have been spent volunteering in church, instructing the young, running a scout group, saving souls? Will he applaud the fortune spent on a hobby when children the other side of town went to school without coats in winter? Understand there is nothing wrong with nice lawns, favoured shows nor hobbies but if these are all we invest in something is very wrong.
A final thought. It is good to consider the end because, believe it or not, the end is what brings meaning to the present. Consider a football season; players look to the end – to the final league standing- for motivation. The promise at the ‘end’ is what spurs victory in the present. Theend doesn’t depress it inspires! Students also look forward – the promise of a degree and job at the end – motivates study. Unless they’re just there to drink beer and play rugby but I can’t think of who that ever applied to?! So it is with life. The fact of our death should not depress but inspire us. Christians should delight in it- and feel so happy for those of us who do die, since our faith tells us that living for Jesus will bring us to his kingdom now and in the end.
So in this month of November, when consideration of the dead surrounds us, please be morbid- ponder your death very seriously. Make wills to protect loved ones. Plan your funeral. Bequest your inheritance. Could you leave our small parish a gift, a good charity, somebody deserving of help? And mend those broken relationships- with family, friends, and dare I say – with God too. So that when the end arrives you will be ready to greet it with joy assured of your eternal salvation.