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It is a terrible thing, to be unprepared for death and Heaven. A man can decide to become a great actor, a successful business man, or a brilliant guitarist - or might have some other ambition. But if all his energies are poured into the success of his ambition he will risk his soul. He will arrive at middle-age or old age having made no spiritual progress, and if indeed he has not lost all hope of salvation he will have a mountain to climb in Purgatory.
In the Story of Narnia there is a healing liquid which was used to bring a wounded boy back to health. The Precious Blood of Christ, received in Holy Communion, at Mass (also received, even when we only consume the Sacred Host), is like a healing liquid which makes us ready for Eternal Life. Knowing this, who can say, without seeming foolish, 'I can't be bothered to go to Mass'.
The Holy Spirit carries all faithful souls across the Abyss which separates earth from Heaven - though He does not carry all straight into Heaven, but to a place of purification, if they are not yet worthy. This place, called Purgatory, is represented here by the little ledge on the side of the cliff. The Holy Souls can see the fearsome depths below, and know that by God's grace they have been saved from falling into them.
In speaking about God the Father, some people say that God is cruel, to allow people to fall into Hell. The truth is, in His goodness, He invites everyone to respond to His love, to grow in union with Him, though Jesus Christ His Son, and to do good and prepare for the gift of Heaven. But how can anyone expect to be saved, who will not do what is essential, in preparation for such a privilege and gift? How can anyone benefit from Christ's work, who refuses to do as Christ asks: to pray, to obey His commands, and to love Him as well as our neighbour?
It is tragic that people think that God is cruel, to allow people to go to Hell. He is reaching out, all the time, to save us from the consequences of our sins, warning us of the total loss of joy and peace when people freely choose to try to live without His love. He even sent His Son to earth, as man, to speak to us, and to plead with us to repent, and lead holy lives in union with Him, in preparation for Heaven. He sacrificed His life for this - but still, many people walk away.
We should use the time well, doing good, and preparing for Heaven. At the end of earthly life, each of us will be on our way towards Heaven - carried by the Holy Spirit across the Abyss, even if we then pause in Purgatory - or on our way into Hell, in the depths of the Abyss. Our freely-made choices in this life affect our destiny. God is asking each of us: "What are you doing with your life?"
The souls in Purgatory suffer amidst the clouds of remorse and sin from which they are being purified. They desperately want our prayers, to aid them in their preparation for Heaven, by God's grace. It is tragic that many Catholics are careless about having a Mass said for the dead, or praying in private, and even more tragic that many Christians don't believe prayer for the Departed is necessary, despite its scriptural warrant. They in fact abandon their departed friends and relations.
The Lord showed me that, just as on a lengthy car journey there comes a time to put down the map, collect belongings, and pick up gifts for the people we are meeting, so, in life's journey, when we believe it is shortly to end, it's time to prepare, to clear up our belongings, leave gifts for those who are close to us, and prepare, spiritually, for our meeting with the Lord.
God asks us all to adore His Son, and to honour Christ's holy Mother Mary. The Father gave His Son to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Only because of her self-gift to the Father's plan have we received Jesus Christ as our Saviour, our Teacher, and our Friend, Really Present in the Holy Eucharist; and only because of Mary's love are we members of Christ's Mystical Body, being made ready to ascend to Heaven.
Many Catholics believe it is enough to be kind to other people. The greatest love is shown when people are not only offered kindness but also when they are offered the truth which sets us free: the truth about God's love for us, about sin and virtue, repentance and forgiveness, about the Real Presence of Jesus in His Church, helping us to prepare for Heaven.
Everyone who sincerely repents of his sins, before he dies, will be forgiven by God, as Christ has promised. Yet someone who has acted with unimaginable cruelty is left in great need of penance and purification. He can find that, in Purgatory, he is allowed to reflect on his great wickedness, and on the mercy of God who has saved him from Hell, in circumstances similar to those in which he once confined his victims. It will be a long time before he is ready for Heaven.
God wants us to lead lives which are as pure as fresh snow, with each of our thoughts, words and deeds holy. We should have pure intentions, treating everyone with kindness, speaking the truth always, and leading chaste lives worthy of Christians. None of this can be achieved by our own power, but with God's grace we can change, and prepare for our life in Heaven. Christ asks us: will we be ready for Heaven, when we die?
A blanket of fresh, gleaming snow looks beautiful, but underneath are hidden the gloomy depths of the earth, with damp vegetation, and worms. Many souls are like this. Catholics who persuade themselves that they are not sinning, and who never go to confession, are good only on the surface, and ill-prepared for Heaven.
Christ asks us to share the truth with hesitant Catholics, that the surest way to a holy life, and a confident but holy journey to Heaven, is to make a good Confession; then, freed from all sin, and trusting in Christ, in prayer, and guided by the teachings of His Church, the Way ahead becomes clear.
There are worse tragedies than illness. There was once an advert that portrayed the pain of a family who lost a beloved member through sudden death. How terrible it is, if a member is lost forever, through not having prepared for death by repentance, holy living, prayer, and trust in God. Some people rule themselves out of Heaven by their sins or disbelief.
It is a wise thing to do, to keep some shoes or boots by the garden door, to wear when stepping out onto some wet grass or a muddy terrace. It is an even wiser thing, to make preparations for the time when we shall step out into Eternity. Have we repented and led holy lives? Are we ready to meet our Creator?
Just as it is too late for a miner to search for his lamp, his sandwiches and his handkerchief when his carriage has moved into the darkness of the mine, so it is too late for us to repent and make amends, if we do not do this before we die. By our carelessness or pride, we can go into that apparent darkness with little hope of finding our way to Heaven.
Have we climbed the mountain of holiness, by God's grace, ready to arrive peacefully at the door to Heaven? God asks us to ask ourselves: Do I love God with my whole heart? Do I favour His Will, above all things? If we do not love God and want to thank and praise Him, we are not ready for Heaven; but what if He should suddenly call us, to leave this earthly life? Wise people get ready, now.
A surgeon takes tremendous care in his preparations for his work, just as a good mother takes great care, in cleanliness and nutrition, as she prepares food for a little child; and even greater care is necessary when everyone prepares for an event that is not only important, but sacred: receiving Christ in Holy Communion, or taking part in any of the Sacraments, in which our all-holy, glorious God is at work.
In Christ's sight, a person shows lack of love and respect for Christ when he is unwilling to prepare for an intimate encounter with his Saviour and God in Holy Communion. That preparation, for all who have gravely sinned, should consist of seeking forgiveness in Confession, called the Sacrament of Penance. In a state of grace, a person approaches Christ as if clothed in a pure garment of holiness, not the filthy rags of unrepented sin.
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