The Last Things: A homily for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

images.jpgThe month of November is a chance for us to think about the last things, the fact that we don’t live on earth forever. One day we will take our last breath. We will go to one of three places.  It is good for us to remember that life here ends, and how we live here has eternal consequences.

In the end, we’re judged on love. So says St John of the Cross, and after toda’ys Gospel, I believe it.  In the end, we’re judged on love. How well did we love God?  How well did we love his body the Church?  How well did we love the people in our lives?  That’s the final exam.

If we didn’t love well, we go to hell.  Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in the bible.  If God talks of it, it must be real. Today’s biggest heresy is that everyone goes to heaven automatically, no matter well. Jesus has something else to say about it.  Jesus says hell is real.  It’s worth living a life of love to go there.

Those who do go there, they have made a decision against God, against love. We call it mortal sin. The Church wisely teaches that it takes only one mortal sin for hell.  It’s like walking off a tall building. It takes one step off the top, and boom.  Gone.

Purgatory is for those who die in venial sins and for temporal punishment associated with our life’s sins that have been forgiven in confession and/or the anointing. Purgatory is a great place. It is a place where we are made whole, where we are made perfect.  Nothing imperfect is in heaven….it makes sense that there be a place–or a state–wherein we are made perfect, made ready for the land of perfection.  I probably won’t be perfect when I die.

We know that our prayers on earth help those who are there in Purgatory.  It’s because we’re connected to them.

Church in heaven = Church Triumphant
Church in purgatory  = Church Suffering
Church on earth = Church Militant

We’re all tied together. You ask me to pray for you, we believe there is an effect that comes from that.  The saints pray for us; we ask them to all the time. In the same way, we pray for the dead.

We’ve been doing that for a long, long time, since the earliest Masses.  This belief in Pugatory has been there from the start of the Christian faith.  This is why we have Masses said for loved ones, why we light candles, why we have funeral Masses, etc.

When a loved one dies, it’s a work of mercy to pray for them.  It’s good not to assume they are in heaven, unless it’s a baby or little kid or someone who received last rites with the apostolic pardon (I’m giving a talk later this month on all these “last things”).    It’s good not to assume they’re in heaven, because if we do that, then we don’t pray for them.

Better to pray for them.  This month we remember the names on our board of remembrance and in the book of remembrance.

November is a time for us to reflect on our own mortality, the fact htat one day we’ll be judged on how well we loved.

Jesus says in our Gospel —  The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

If we are faithful to these two great commandments of love, we fulfill every other commandment by happy consequence.

A good thing to reflect daily:  Where did I love today?  Concretely.  Where did I love the people in my life? Concretely.  Love, to be real, must be CONCRETE!  Otherwise, it’s not real.

Some say, “I love Jesus.”   But never go to Mass, never frequent the sacraments, never pray, never serve, never treat others well.  They don’t love Jesus. I promise you.

Listen to this from Fr. Slavko – “The greater our love, the less we speak of sacrifice or what we ‘must do.’  And where there is no love, everything is a sacrifice and burden.”  Where there is true love, the sacrifice is so easy and natural!

In the end – we’re judged on love