Saturday, October 29, 2016

Four and either/or

Death.  Judgment.  Heaven.  Hell.
These are the Four Last Things, toward which we turn our attention in these four last weeks of the liturgical year.   Four weeks from now, we will light the first candle of our Advent wreath, and remind ourselves of the prophecy and promise:  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)  But in order for that to mean anything to us, we have to identify ourselves as the people who walk in darkness.
Death is pushed to the fringes of our lives and consciousness, which is an odd strategy since it is one of the certain realities that all human beings share.  On Monday night, our children will “taunt” death by dressing as scary creatures and demanding tribute – tasty treats better suited to their true identities.   But amidst the giggles and gorging runs an awareness of what is truly frightening, our own demise.
Judgment is another reality we would rather not consider, at least in regard to ourselves.  Our freedom as human agents, actors in our own lives and the lives of others, brings responsibility not only for the consequences of our every action, but also for the motivations of our every choosing.  Fear and trembling is a right response to the anticipation of this irrevocable moment, which is perhaps why it is so easy to allow ourselves to be distracted by assurances of our own “higher” purposes, which just so happen to serve those making the assurances.
Heaven is hard to think about and even harder to describe.  Something perfect and unending has no edges, rough or otherwise, to define it;  nor variation by which to gauge it.  The only way to know anything about heaven is to experience it, which is why He Whose presence fills it and Who craves our company with him there, makes that experience available to us in the Communion He offers here on earth. 
Hell is the irreversible loss of this goodness, achieved by our free choosing in this lifetime, when choosing is not only possible but indeed necessary for us.  The common platitude that “God wouldn’t send anyone to hell for that,” is true enough, but small consolation once we realize that He has lovingly left us where we have chosen to be, and that sure ain’t heaven.
So after you dance with death and Snickers bars on Monday, cross the threshold of heaven itself on Tuesday, and rejoice in the company of the Saints, who live forever to help us to join them in the glory that we crave.  Then return on Wednesday to pray for those facing judgment, your family and friends and other beloved departed, as well as those who have no one willing or able to intercede for them.  The sacrifice of love is what will pull these endangered ones from the jaws of hell, and we can choose to join our love to Christ’s in His efficacious work.
Halloween is for fun.  All Saint’s is a day of Obligation; All Souls a day of opportunity.  Every day is ours to choose where and how we spend the life we have, with an eye toward the life for which we yearn.  All these are packed into this one week; next week we shall be reminded that darkness covers the valley we walk – and no I do not mean the change to short days and Standard Time.  Choose with an eye to eternity!  Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

Monsignor Smith

Tuesday, November 1: All Saint's Day
Holy Day of Obligation
Masses: 6:30, 8:15, & 10:00 AM; 7:30 PM.

Wednesday, November 2: All Souls' Day
Masses: 6:30 & 8:15AM; 7:30 PM.
The evening Mass will be a Solemn Requiem, 
offered for the repose of the souls 
of those departed from our parish over this past year.  
Mass propers will be the choral setting of the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré.

Modern Man contemplates Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.

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