The Pastor's Column

Fr. Maina

The Last Four Things

A teaching of the Catholic Church that is often forgotten deals with the four last things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. Purgatory is not included in this teaching since the holy souls in purgatory are assured of heaven but first undergo purification. The last four things are inevitable for each and every person in the world. Each of us will die, meet the Merciful and Just Judge, and be ushered to heaven or hell according to our state of life. God desires that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4). In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays that his Father's name be glorified when he draws all to himself through his passion, death, and resurrection. So how can we participate in the salvific work of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ? I think we must be heaven-minded.

Heaven-minded people live an active sacramental life daily which includes attending mass and confession regularly as well as reflecting on our baptismal vows and consecrating our life in the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we cannot live a heaven-minded life if we do not steadily receive the sacraments and pray daily. A prayerful life involves a conscious decision to pray, understanding different modes of prayer (for example, Mass as a liturgical prayer, reciting prayers from a prayer book, and mental meditational prayer), and creating a structure to the prayer.

Another way of being heaven-minded involves living according to God’s will. You may ask, how do I know if I am living according to God’s will? I think three ways help us discern the will of God in our lives. If I can interiorly, honestly and consciously, without even letting anyone know, say that to the best of my knowledge I do not have any mortal sin, then I can say that I am living according to God’s will. Remember, one mortal sin can alienate us from God so if we die and are unrepentant with just one mortal sin, it could lead our soul to hell.

A second way to live according to God’s will implies fulfilling our duties according to our vocation of life. God will never ask us to live a life that is not consistent with our nature of life. Married people fulfill God’s will when they live their marital vows. Finally, the will of God requires profound humility. We have to move away from self-praise. St. Maximilian Kolbe wrote that “the only purpose of the will of God is God Himself and His love. Everything else is a means to that end.”

Should we fear death? I am sure if we asked everyone in the church if they want to go to heaven, all the hands would go up. But what if the question was how many want to go to heaven TODAY? Probably few or no hands would go up. Our physical death completes our full incorporation with Christ, the seal of the sacramental dying in the Baptism. So, the three times of pouring or submersion in the waters of Baptism reunite us with the death of Christ. That is why at funerals, we always have baptismal symbols next to the casket.

Living as a heaven-minded person means to pray for a happy and holy death. Five elements comprise a happy death: 1) The person dies in a state of sanctifying grace which means that at the moment of death, one does not have any known unrepented mortal sin. 2) The person receives the sacrament of the sick. 3) The person receives the Holy Viaticum, the last communion before death. 4) Prayers of commendation are administered, including the litany of the saints. 5) The person receives absolution from the priest.

The church teaches about the particular judgment at the time of death. The church borrows from the Gospel of Luke (16:22) and others when Jesus said to the repentant thief, “Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” The church says that souls that die in the state of grace and do not have to atone for any sins are received at once in heaven while the souls that die with an unrepented mortal sin are alienated from God for eternity. The church also teaches that one’s particular judgment will take place at the time of death while all souls await the general judgment when Christ the King will come in his glory to judge the living and the dead and reunite each soul with its body. God plans that souls go straight to heaven when they die. The souls that die without having atoned for their non-mortal sins will go to purgatory.

The Catholic Church also teaches about the reality of Hell as one of the last four things. Since God made humans to love him freely, God also does everything to win our love. He pursues humans through his grace but alienates the souls who knowingly and willfully turn against him and at the moment of death die as his enemies. God’s attributes of Mercy and Just Justice find infinite perfection in God at the moment of death. St. Augustine said that either we love God and despise ourselves or we love ourselves and despise God.

The Gospel this week invites us to reflect on the reality of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. Are you heaven- minded?

May God bless you and your family.

Fr. Maina Waithaka
With you a Christian, for you a priest.