Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Losing an hour of sunlight this past week, it feels like winter is approaching all the more quickly. Thanksgiving is around the corner, and the Christmas decorations are already popping up in stores. In the Church though, before we begin to even think about Advent, we take a moment to reflect on the approaching end of the year, by reflecting on the end of time. Throughout this month, the readings take on a somber tone, leading us to reflect on what is traditionally called the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
These are topics we don’t always like to think about, but they are the most important topics if we believe in eternity, because compared to eternity, life is barely a moment. In every choice we make, these realities remind us that no momentary satisfaction is worth losing eternal life. And while so many come to their beliefs on eternity based on their feelings, what they imagine it must be like, we have the concrete facts of Christ’s words. What does he say?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Mt 25). In the end we will all face a judgement, and we will face two possible destinies. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Those who do God’s will in all things, who love and serve God and the least of His brethren, will share in that kingdom of peace and joy. “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Those who turn from God, who would rather fulfill their own desires than do God’s will, do not receive that reward. C.S. Lewis says it well, “The Gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” God loves us so much, He would never force us to be with Him forever, but allows us to choose that sad path of eternal loneliness.
For those of us who long for heaven, confess our sins, but are still not quite perfect, there is a bit of a pit stop called Purgatory. In a parable, we hear from Christ, “Amen, I say to you, you will not be re- leased until you have paid the last penny.” (Mt 5:26) St. Paul affirms, “But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15). We cannot enter heaven unclean, so we are given hope that even in spite of our imperfection, God will purify us after death. What a comfort! That’s why in this month of November we pray in a special way for the dead. Our prayers help them as they are cleansed and speeds them on their way to heaven.
Keeping heaven on our minds in a special way this month, may we ask if our lives are truly aimed for eternity, that we may share in that kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
Yours in Christ,