Death: Are You Ready?

I fell in my driveway yesterday, landing on my shoulder and banging my head right above the eye hard on the concrete. My wife insisted on taking me to the emergency room. Anyone who has been to the E.R. for anything knows what that is like – perkatory. Perkatory is that agonizingly endless interval endured while waiting for a fresh pot of coffee to brew. Only at the end of perkatory there’s a fresh mug of coffee and it’s a lot shorter than the wait in the E.R.

My phone was running out of juice, so I had to find something else to focus on while waiting. As this was the day after Ash Wednesday, I couldn’t help reflecting on the words said at the distribution of ashes, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality. My situation brought to mind the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.

It also made me wonder about all those supposedly Christian (and especially Catholic) politicians who advocate so strongly for abortion and all the other things that run counter to the natural law and the teachings of the faith. What goes on in their minds? Do they think they can deceive God who sees into their hearts? They may deceive themselves with specious mental arguments and think that what they are doing is okay, but God sees into their hearts. He sees through the darkness – they cannot hide in it.

Tim Kaine, a self-proclaimed pro-abortion Catholic, thinks he is hiding in the darkness because in part of the mass we say, “Lord I am not worthy” and that makes things alright. True, none of us is worthy, but through God’s grace and the sacrament of reconciliation, with true repentance and full intent to no longer sin, we can approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. However, repeated votes against Church teaching are not indicative of repentance nor amendment. If folks like him would just abstain from voting on such issues it might give some indication of change. I wrote Tim Kaine a letter asking him if he thought he would be able to truly repent as he took his last breath, but he never answered.

Jesus teaches repentance and that we should never underestimate God’s mercy. It is infinite. But there are conditions. As I stated above one must ask for forgiveness, be repentant (acknowledge our sins – mortal sins need to be acknowledged explicitly), be truly contrite, and have a firm purpose of amending one’s life – a desire to stop that sin. Otherwise, the door will be closed to us.

This brings us to the title of this essay. One of the shortest (and one of the best – not just because of its length) homilies I have heard was given by a parish priest after reading the Gospel of Matthew (25:1-13) concerning the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom (Christ). Five brought extra oil for their lamps and five were unprepared. The bridegroom was delayed (we don’t know the time of Christ’s return), so the unprepared virgins asked the others for some of their oil but were refused because then all of them might run out. While they went to procure more oil, the bridegroom arrived. When those virgins finally returned and asked for admittance to the bridal feast, they were told, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” They were forbidden entry. After finishing the Gospel reading, the priest leaned over to the microphone, said the words above, “DEATH! Are you ready,” and sat down. You could hear a pin drop.

Other parables and teachings of Jesus give a similar lesson: Mark 13:33 (“Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time will come”), Luke 21:36 (“But watch at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man”), and Acts 1:7 (“It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority”).

My message to these politicians and to all is stop making excuses for your wrong and sinful actions which make the darkness of your hearts deeper. Let the light and love of God enter in – researchers have shown that this will help your feelings of happiness, reduce feelings of despair, and make your lives more stable. Stop trying to convince yourselves that you aren’t really (that) bad (I’m not as bad as that guy over there). Only individuals can be saved – it is not a comparison test. Quit trying to twist scripture to justify your actions and support your sin.

As the other statement made on Ash Wednesday says, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk 1:15)

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