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What a comfort is our God! Even if we are being mercilessly treated, we know that God's love for us is so great that He came amongst us in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who made Himself one will all who suffer. He was willing to live and die, as man, to fulfill the Father's plan of Salvation. He triumphed over sin and death; and we can triumph, too; if we live and die 'in' Christ.
At the end of human life, we shall ultimately make our way towards Heaven - by the grace of Christ - or to Hell, as a consequence of our own choices and actions. Hell can be pictured as a hole in the ground, from which no-one can return, whether to earthly life or to Heaven. It is a life of utter misery and regret, shared with others who have resolutely refused, until death, to accept Christ's invitation to turn to Him in repentance, to receive the gift of Divine Life.
Whenever there is a natural disaster in a poverty-stricken country, it should be borne in mind that, amongst the dead, are many who were responsible for the dreadful corruption, crime, poverty and injustice. No-one who has made himself rich or secure by sin can protect himself against sudden death, and Judgement.
If we picture an underground car-park, after an earthquake, with its floor a mess of broken concrete, and people feeling really unsafe on the uneven floor, with little hope: it will be worse than that for all who have preyed on the poor and have committed every sort of evil, and who have not repented before they died. They will experience Eternal separation from God and from loving friends and relations.
We who love Christ are never left alone. When a devout soul dies, a person who loves Christ and has served Him in humility, it's as though only a short step will take that person into Heaven, assisted by a helping hand from the Saints who have gathered around the death-bed, to assist their friend.
The priest is the man at the heart of the process of conversion. He brings good news about God's love, and the forgiveness given to repentant sinners. He brings Jesus to us: in His Word, in the Real Presence of Christ at Mass and in the tabernacle. He organises Catechesis; and he preaches, offers the Holy Sacrifice, prepares us for death, guides and helps the bereaved - and the faithful priest will be marvelously rewarded, even in this life. His greatest friend is Jesus Christ.
In one picture is here encapsulated what God the Father has done for us by sending His Son to be out Redeemer. Christ came amongst us, as man, to rescue people stricken by sin, who cannot, by our own power, raise ourselves up to health and holiness and Heaven. He said: Repent; Be baptised: then He conquered sin and death by His death and Resurrection.
It is a great grace for a lapsed Catholic to receive the Sacraments of the Church before death. This can change that person's eternal destiny, from being hopeless - if he or she was in a state of mortal sin - to being glorious. It's as if Christ carries that soul upwards, even if the soul must spend a while in Purgatory before reaching Heaven.
It is a charitable act - a work of mercy - to attend a Requiem Mass where the sole connection with the deceased and the relations is the communion that is shared in and through Christ. The mourners are comforted by additional prayers, the dead have the Mass offered for the repose of their souls, and the clergy benefit, and God is given glory by our kindness.
Each of us should ask, if we think about death, "Will my soul rise up to Heaven, helped by the outstretched arm of Christ?" If we do not turn to Christ, and allow Him to forgive our sins, and to bring us to Heaven by His Divine power, we cannot save ourselves. We shall have no-where to go except downwards, into the eternal loss-of-God that is called Hell.
We are all horrified to think of victims of an avalanche, many still trapped beneath tons of rocks and snow, in their vehicles. Those who died have had a dreadful end; yet no suffering is as great as that experienced by people who die alienated from God, and unrepentant. In life, they were being damaged by sin as their intellects and consciences were darkened. Without repentance, sinners risk the loss of God after death, forever: a state called Hell.
Satan is tireless in his efforts to corrupt and endanger God's friends. There is a holy Way on which we can walk: a way of light and peace, on which we can walk in the knowledge and love of God, confident that by His grace and mercy we are making our way towards Heaven. Yet we must be vigilant until the moment of death, determined not to allow Satan's tricks, or our own weaknesses and sinful instincts, to draw us off that road.
Christ understands what many of the elderly suffer. On the Cross, He suffered not just pain, but also the helplessness, weakness and loss of control that many patients experience who are neglected in hospitals, and who should turn to Him for consolation when they are grieving about the apparently disastrous end to their lives.
We cannot carry our baggage into Heaven. We can only carry a charitable heart, and a pure mind full of pure thoughts, and pure intentions in everything, out of love for God. If we have sins, or ambitions, or grudges, or wounds unforgiven, or feuds, or hearts full of anger or self-pity, it will be, at death, as though we are trying to 'check in'; but we are being asked to surrender all we own, before our 'flight' to Heaven, with the Holy Spirit.
There are far-away countries where some communities are so isolated that some people in power permit horrible injustices against the powerless, who become deprived of all hope. Cruel people who do not repent will find themselves isolated after death, themselves at the mercy of creatures stronger than they: the demons in Hell.
By our own freely-made choices, we alter our destiny. Those who persist in selfishness and sin, despite the help given by God to reflect upon their lives, and to turn to Him in contrition and trust, will find themselves led, at death, into total alienation and spiritual hopelessness, as if through a dark doorway, unlike those who have persevered in faith and love, and who are raised up in the glorious life of Heaven, to share the joy of the Saints, forever.
There is a horrible surprise in store for a person who has deserted Christ and the Church, and who arrives at the moment of death, then finds himself helpless between the Evil One who had been leading him astray, and the pit into which he might soon fall, to remain there forever. But Christ appears, with a merciful face, to ask: 'Is that really your wish: to go to Hell? If you reach up your arms to me, I will save you.' He must choose well, and reach up in humility, if he wishes to reach Heaven one day.
Any priest or bishop who makes compromises in his teaching or example, to fit into society, is as if living in semi-darkness; and to die in that state is to be far from the 'ladder' which represents a swift ascent to Heaven for those who have lived in the light.
There are Catholics who not only defend the practice of abortion, speaking in private, but who also argue for it in public, and so cause scandal, and lead others astray. Unless they repent before they die they will fall into the pit, away from God, Whose defenseless human beings, they have persuaded others, can be destroyed.
Each of us needs to remember that we shall one day die. Shall we go to the grave in the love of God, confident that He will rescue us, and bring us up to Heaven, or shall we die when we have, at some stage of life earlier, cut ourselves off from Him? By our decisions and our behaviour today, each of us is making our way towards Heaven or towards Hell.
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