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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Death...The End?...or The Beginning?...

"A time to be born, and a time to die..." (Ecclesiastes 3:2, NAB)

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15)

"Death viewed according to the senses terrifies and causes fear; but when viewed with the eyes of faith it consoles and becomes desirable. It appears terrible to sinners, but lovely and precious to the saints."
- St. Alphonsus Liguori

Recently, I have heard many conversations about death - natural death, death from old age, death due to terminal sickness, sudden death - whatever it is, the topic seems depressing and sad; not something to look forward to, when we actually have to confront it face to face...better still, have the opportunity to prepare for the departure.

Generally, to many of us, death is viewed as the opposite of life.  The thought of death brings about emotions of depression, hopelessness, loneliness and discouragement.  The thoughts that often run through our minds would be that everything that has been so dear to us here on earth, will all come to an abrupt end - our loved ones, our children, our grand children, our friends, our possessions, our accumulated wealth, our secular 'life', our worldly pursuits...the list seems endless!  We will miss them all, somehow.

"...for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." (Psalm 95:7, NIV)
Fellow Pilgrims, if death is truly the opposite of life, then there is every reason for us to despair.  Every facet of our understanding about what is good and bad, right and wrong, would have been a big joke and pointless, if death would truly be the opposite of life.  Our faith would have been in vain.

St. Bernard asks, "Tell me where are the lovers of the world?" and he replies, "Nothing remains of them save ashes and worms."

"Let the end of this life be thought upon, and there will be nothing in this world to be loved," observes St. Lawrence Justinian.

"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith."
(1 Corinthians 15: 13-14, NAB)

"But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest." (Wisdom 4:7, NAB)

What folly would it not be for a traveller, a pilgrim, if when travelling, he were only to think of making himself great in that country (earth) through which he only has to pass, without minding the being reduced to live miserably in that country (heaven) where he will have to spend his whole life (eternity)? 

And is he not foolish, who seeks his happiness in this world, where he has to remain but a few days, and who by so doing, runs the risk of being unhappy in the world to come, where he will have to remain forever?

"For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?..."
(Matthew 16:26, Douay Rheims)

My dear pilgrims, death is NOT an ending but a passage to eternity.  The cross is a symbol of life.

 "It is a great mystery of divine love, that not even in Christ was exception made of the death of the body; and although He was the Lord of nature, He refused not the law of the flesh which He had taken upon Him. It is necessary for me to die; for Him it was not necessary." - St Ambrose

"Those who have been faithful to Christ will rise glorious, their bodies transformed on the model of the risen body of Christ, who could travel instantly at will, could ignore closed doors and come through anyway, but yet had real flesh.  St. Paul says the risen body is "spiritual" (15:44).  It is still flesh, but such that the flesh is completely dominated by the soul, so that it can no longer suffer or die. 

...The Second Epistle of Peter 1:4 says by grace we are "sharers in the divine nature."  The Blessed too will be united with others there, especially those close and dear to them in this life...they will have eternal fellowship with Our Lady and all the saints."  - Rev. William G. Most

Prayer for a Happy Death (Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman)

O my Lord and Savior, support me in my last hour in the strong arms of Thy Sacraments and by the fresh fragrance of Thy consolations.  Let the absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Thine own Body be my food, and Thy Blood my sprinkling; and let my sweet Mother, Mary, breathe on me, and my Angel whisper peace to me, and my glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile upon me, that, in them all and through them all, I may receive the gift of perseverence, and die as I desire to live, in Thy faith, in Thy Church, in Thy service, and in Thy love. Amen.

"...the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them." (Wisdom 3:1, NAB)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Contemplation...Quenching the Thirst...

"Contemplation is nothing else than a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love."

 - St. John of the Cross