The well-known aphorism, “there are two things certain in life: death and taxes,” is generally taken as a swipe at our onerous tax burdens. But how often do we reflect on the other inevitability? Most of us tend to avoid the uncomfortable thought of our last moment and what will come next. But isn’t it the most significant moment of life? Shouldn’t we consider what will become of us?
The burden of death is so great that it is difficult to ponder unless there is some hope of a better life on “the other side.” This is exactly what Jesus Christ offers us. In fact, it is this precise hope that moved the early Christians to proclaim the gospel of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. This proclamation led them into conflict with the Jewish and Roman authorities, and often ultimately to their own execution. But on they went, utterly convinced of the message of salvation: in Christ, the finality of death is no more! In light of Christ’s Resurrection, St Paul even taunts death, saying, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:55).
As the Church approaches the end of the liturgical year her liturgical readings dwell on the realities of the last things: death, judgment, and the afterlife. In her wisdom, the Church makes us contemplate our moral state so that we can prepare for our inevitable meeting with the Lord. This month we hear messages of resurrection and judgment from the prophet Daniel: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” We also hear Jesus warn of the “great tribulation” that is to come when the sun will not give its light and the stars will fall from the sky as the Son of Man comes in glory. Indeed the old world has been judged and passed away insofar as the new world has begun with the Resurrection of Christ. If we want to participate in this new creation, we must pray and “stay awake” for we know neither the day, nor the hour of judgment. We must live lives worthy of Christ the Lord.
I recently saw a Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown ponders aloud, “One of these days we are going to die.” Snoopy replied, “But all the rest of them we are going to live!” Let’s be sure, then, to live the rest of our days in such a way that the inevitable day in which we pass from this life to the next will be gloriously blessed.
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