“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
The ultimate trajectory of the spiritual life is Heaven, and great spiritual writers have constantly pointed out the value of meditating on the “Four Last Things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Here we are in Lent, and our Lord’s sufferings remind us that he has merited for us a simply stunning inheritance that will lead to an eternity of happiness. This eternity is as close as death’s doorstep, and who knows when our next step will lead us into that Eternal Life?
In evaluating our lives, we should not discount the length of eternal life. What God is offering to us, ETERNAL LIFE, is simply stunning, overwhelming and unfathomable! Certainly a fundamental part of the Ignatian Exercises is simply to do the math: to reflect on the shortness of life and the incredible length of eternity. And then to choose wisely, which is why we pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of Wisdom. To miss out on Heaven – and all that Heaven is – simply cannot be an option. “Who could endure the loss?”
As to death, it is a great grace to realize that we are going to die. In essence, our lives are but a preparation for death. God, in His providence, already knows the day and moment of our death, and He has already put in place the graces we will need to be saved. We need to cooperate with those graces, and all will be well.
Unfortunately, so many people live their lives without much thought about their impending death. They realize that other people die but they sort of see themselves as a bystander to the death of other people – somehow convincing themselves that it won’t happen to them.
And although attending someone’s funeral may make such a person anxious about death, it is also the case that we are quite adept at putting in to place psychological defense mechanisms that quickly assuage such thoughts and turn our attention back to the world.
As I see it, there is a gigantic cultural conspiracy in place to convince us that we are not going to die. The plan is to outlive death by taking the right vitamins, wearing the best make-up, and seeing the best doctors. And yet everyone still dies. We are all on an absolute collision course with death. Only God knows for sure how much time we have left. And the clock keeps ticking.
I think it is interesting that in Saint Mother Teresa‘s mystical life the Virgin Mary told her to tell families to say the rosary (reference: Come Be My Light, Doubleday, p.99). This prayer not only helps us to contemplate the life of Christ, including his death and resurrection, but it continually reminds us of the two most important moments in our lives – the present moment and the moment of our death. We ask Mary to “pray for us now and at the hour of our death.” It is in the “sacrament of the present moment” that we can choose to conform our will to God’s grace, and it is at the moment of death that we need all of Heaven (that great cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12:1) interceding for us to persevere to the end. It is important to pray for the grace of final perseverance and for the fortitude to die a good death. It is reassuring to know that we are asking Mary’s help in this regard when we pray the rosary.
In First Corinthians it says (at 2:9):
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Don’t put your trust in the passing things of this world (those idols have no power to save you). Be a little greedy for Heaven, and in the process transform that greed into love and gratitude for a God who, after dying for our sins and humbling himself to be our very eternal life-giving food, has prepared for us such an immense reward that the magnitude of the joy and love we will experience in Heaven is beyond our narrow understanding, lasting for endless ages, in the glory of the “ever-blessed” life of God. In short, to say that Heaven is going to be awesome is an incredible understatement.
“For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He…rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Inspiration: The Imitation of Christ; The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; and F.W. Faber’s The Creator and the Creature (from where I derive the title to the note and I am otherwise heavily indebted to him for the tone and content of the note; it is Faber who mentions that our next step may be the one into eternity). Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta was canonized by Pope Francis on September 4, 2016!
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