16 November 2013

FEAR NOT THAT IT SHALL END BUT THAT IT MAY NEVER BEGIN

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 21:5-19 (Mal 3:19-20 / Ps 98 / 2 Thes 3:7-12)


Blessed John Henry Newman, a 19th century cardinal who was converted from Anglicanism, wrote, “Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather that it shall never have a beginning.”  Cardinal Newman referred to two kinds of life: one here on earth and the other in the hereafter.  The first is temporal while the second is eternal.  Death, for Cardinal Newman, is simply the conclusion of earthly life.  It is like a door that opens up to eternity.  Dying is like sleeping on this side of life and awakening at the other side.  As we close our eyes in this world, we open them to the world that is yet to come.  Thus, when we die we actually begin not only a new life but THE real life because life after death knows no death anymore.  But what if that life shall never have a beginning for you?  Then you should shudder in fear.  Be afraid of death only when there is nothing beyond it for you.  Be terrified of dying if after dying there is no more living for you.  And living after dying means joyfully and peacefully living with God forever, for living in hell after death is not living at all but excruciatingly dying over and over again forever.  The horror therefore of not beginning your eternal life with God is nothing compared to the anxiety of leaving your loved ones behind when you die.  “Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather that it shall never have a beginning,” says Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Fear is very rarely a good thing.  It paralyzes a person.  It causes panic and commotion.  It kills.  But sometimes we need some fear in our lives.  If we are not afraid of fire, then many of us will burn.  If students are not afraid of failing marks, they will not study.  If motorists are not afraid of meeting an accident on the road, they do not obey traffic rules.  If we do not fear getting sick, then we will never take care of our health.  Sometimes a good amount of fear is needed for us to live meaningful lives.  Sometimes fear of the right things and even of the right persons does us more than good.  What are you afraid of?

To instill fear in our hearts, however, is not the goal of our readings today.  Rather, the Word of God reminds us about something we often forget: We shall die someday.  We do not know when, how, and where, but surely we will die.  And when we die, there will be individual judgment on the kind of life we lived here on earth.  The verdict given on us shall indicate whether our life begins or not at all.  For if positive the verdict we receive, then we shall truly and gloriously live with God forever; but if negative, then we shall indeed and painfully spend eternity in hell.  Thus, the same Word of God implies a question of paramount importance for us: Are we preparing for our death?

What is the best way to prepare for death?  Three suggestions.

First, live your life here on earth to the fullest for God.  Never waste a single moment by living in mediocrity but do your best in all things for love of God.  Never throw away the chance of living with God forever in exchange for a fleeting moment of pleasure, fame, and influence.  Focus on heaven, your true home.  That is where you are meant to live forever.  Love Jesus always.

Second, if heaven is your true home, if living with God is forever, then, like St. Therese of Lisieux, start spending your heaven here on earth by doing good works.  Of course, heaven is not for sale.  Neither can we steal heaven from God.  But, as St. John of the Cross said, “At the twilight of life we shall be judged on love.”  Actual good deeds done to others prepare us to a live a life that is not only eternal but also of perfect love with God in heaven forever someday.  We cannot begin loving in heaven.  Eternity starts here and now.  Love now.  Forgive now.  Serve now.  Give now.  Spend your heaven by doing good on earth.  Love like Jesus always.

Third, repent from your sins and make amends.  Jesus began His public ministry by calling people to repentance.  That was more than two thousand years ago.  How long do we intend to keep Him waiting?  But repentance is not simply saying sorry.  The sincerity of one’s repentance is shown in one’s making amends for his sins.  Thus, it is not enough that you ask for forgiveness, you must repair the damage done by your sins.  With the resolve to strive to do better in the battle between good and evil comes reparation.  Without reparation, repentance is nothing but washing your hands after you commit murder.  Repent, resolve, and repair.  Be not afraid, sinful though you are, Jesus loves you always.

“Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather that It shall never have a beginning.”  So what do you fear then?  The antidote to your fear is vigilance.  Be prepared.  Death is real: it shall come upon us all.  It may come upon all of us even before the end of the world.  Fear will not dispel death.  Neither does fear of it delay death.  It shall come and, as the Lord Himself says in the Gospels, it shall come like a thief in the night.  Death, however, has no more power over us because it actually opens us to life.  But will that life have a beginning for you?

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