A friend invited me to be with the family as their dad passes. “No one dies alone” is a precious way of accompaniment for the dying.
For the dying, it is the reassurance that their loved ones would never leave them alone at the most decisive stage of their earthly journey. For the loved ones of the dying, it is a sober moment of tears, of sadness and, sometimes, of intense reflection on the meaning of life.
I watched the family grapple with this inescapable reality that dad would be gone and never return. He passed calmly after receiving the anointing of the sick with the apostolic blessing. Our faith tells us about the great grace of justification that can come from this wonderful sacrament. It’s incredible spiritual healing too.
As I drove home, I was reminded of the reality that every beginning in time has an end. I was reminded of my own end. I wondered off in a sort of imaginative daydreaming. I imagined who will be at my bedside. What my passing would be like. What would be my spiritual state at that moment when the Lord decides to take me home….
Those thoughts reminded me of the end, the last things according to our faith tradition—death, judgement, heaven or hell. The Church does not ignore to remind us of these facts. In reality, the Lord Jesus would often include the last things in his great teachings.
As believers, we cannot fully live the life of the redeemed unless we think seriously about the life to come. The resurrection of Our Lord and Savior reassures us of our own resurrection too. Our birth into this life and in the Lord in baptism, is a journey unto our birth into heaven, in the bosom of the Father.
For Christians, we are looking forward to what Saint Paul calls, “the upward call of God in Christ” (Phil 3:14).
In the Gospel of Mark (13:24-32), the Lord, speaking to the people toward the end of his life on earth, reminds them of their own end. He equally tells them about his Second Coming. In that conversation, he sheds more light on the prophesy of Daniel concerning the Second Coming (see Dn 7:13, 12:2-3). He speaks of the great tribulation, the shocking events, the catastrophic phenomenon, the coming of the Son of Man, and judgment (Mk 13:24-27).
He makes a prophesy which isn’t so clear to many and has been misunderstood by many too. He says: “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:29-32).
The great preacher of the fifth century, Saint John Chrysostom, who was the archbishop of Constantinople, in his Homilies 76 and 77 on Matthew 24:16-18 and 32-33 respectively, explained that two events are discussed here by the Lord. He was of the view that when the Lord says “this generation will not pass away before all these things take place”, two meanings are referred to here. First is the immediate generation of the Lord and refers to the event of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem which happened in AD 70. The Lord’s word came to pass, as it always does.
The second meaning of “this generation” Saint Chrysostom suggests, refers to the new generation born of Christ. It is a generation not as a result of birth in time but by “religious service and practice” as hinted in the Psalms, “Such is the generation of those who seek the Lord” (Ps 24:6) (Hom. 77).
While the Second Coming of Our Lord is a fait accompli, in our lives we live in such a way that our own end will be in the Lord. Christian life reminds us that the last things are for real. Someday we will die. Then will come judgment. Then heaven or hell. It isn’t one choice—heaven. There are two—heaven or hell.
Praying for the grace to be ready when the Lord chooses to call me home. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[33rdSunday Year B: Dn 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14,18; Mk 13:24-32]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.