22nd Sunday after Pentecost 5.11.17 Readiness for death
Certain people, we say, are alive, and other people are dead. The ones still walking around are alive. It may be debatable just how alive they are.
Physically yes, spiritually maybe not.
In terms of knowing what is really going on, beyond what we can physically see, the dead probably know far more than we do about the true state of things.
The one thing all the dead could tell us (the saved and the lost) is that God is supremely important. Having Him or not having Him is the difference between life and death, happiness and misery.
We, the living, can be distracted from the main event.
We can learn a lesson, from contemplating death, that we should not wait till we die to discover how important God is. Why not discover that now, and apply the knowledge to our present lives?
We have the gift of time. The dead have no time; they cannot add or subtract from whatever they did in their earthly life.
But we can add a great deal to our lives while the time lasts.
Thus we prepare for death, so that it will not take us by surprise. We might be surprised physically by death (accident, sudden illness etc), but not spiritually. We will be like the wise bridesmaids keeping their lamps lit; or the servants who were at their post when the Master returned.
So it does not all flood in on us when we die, we can start doing these things now - like valuing the people around us, forgiving consciously those who have offended us, developing our prayer life, using our talents in God’s service, generally seeing the urgency of the task.
There will still be things that surprise us at death, but we will at least be familiar with the main points.
The more actively we pursue a life of holiness, the more likely we can be comfortable with the idea of dying, and of making the transition from one state to another.
Thus death will not be seen as an ‘interruption’, rather a fulfilment.
Time passes so quickly. We get used to certain events coming and going, and one rolls into the other – Christmas, New Year, Easter, various sporting events, and memorial days…and around we go again. We can just barely keep up with the way things whizz past.
Many things we can ignore, but the one thing nobody can afford to ignore, is the certainty of death and judgment.
Every person has to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and answer this question: did you take Me seriously or not? (or words to that effect).
Every day of all the seasons He is supremely important. Every day of our lives.
He is our first thought, obligation, hope, destination. First and Last.
This is normal. The people who do not do this are the strange ones!
So we do not let death take us unawares. We come to terms with the Master now (cf Mt 5,25), seek His mercy for not doing it better, or earlier, and we pray that His grace will move as many people as possible to the same state.
Death does not have to be as mysterious as it presently seems. We can take the sting out of it. The sting of death is sin (1 Cor 15,56). Remove the sin, and we become like the saints.
The saints could teach us much about death. Far from fearing death they longed for it; not out of depression, but out of joy, wanting to be with God.
The saints, and the holy souls, probably all wish they could have their time again to do more. We still have the time. Let us use it with the help of the saints and holy souls, to be as ready as we can be for the next phase of our lives.