Death is the first of the Last Four Things. Death came into the world through the consequence of sin, it will come to us all. Each day many will rise up not expecting this day to be their last, we are not promised tomorrow.
Seems like the older I get the more Insurance offers are coming my way for funeral expenses, Wills, life insurance, much of which is important in taking care of business for those we leave behind. Think about it, as the above is important, infinitely more so is the spiritual preparation for death.
My friend Catholic Apologist Steve Ray told me that he keeps a skull on his desk as a reminder that some day he will end up in the grave one day. It helps keep him mortal in that he recognizes the importance of preparing himself by the way he lives trusting the Lord.
What is the most important thing that we should be concerned with living this life today. Like everyone else, I would like to see my favorite sports teams to win the championship, I would like to find a job that will give my family security, there are things we need. But 100 years from now does any of these things take priority? Should we take a long range goal to perfect happiness while being a work in progress today?
Our eternity is most important because 100 years from now it will not matter to me if my teams won every year or not! What matters is my Salvation. 2nd Corinthians 6:1-3 states, "Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says:“In an acceptable time I heard you,and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
According to 2017 Stats there are roughly 7.5 billion people living today all over the world. It's a very dangerous world today as there are wars, famines, disease, violence and crime, Abortion, accidents of all kinds, drugs, so many critical areas that plague the human race.
Despite all the above areas of concern, it is figured that for every 1,000 people, there are 8 deaths everyday. There are somewhere around 151,600 people that die around the world everyday. 1.80 die per second, 105 die per minute, 6,316 die per hour so that by the end of an average year 55.3 million die each year.
Since Cain killed Able, death is a reality. The good news is that the God of Heaven has a plan to save those who choose to follow him. "For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son so that who ever might believe in Him, might have everlasting life."
Unfortunately, many people live life as like a mouse in a maze not expecting what is awaiting them any given day. They do not see the snake awaiting them on the other side of the horizon. Just consider traveling I-70 everyday between Kansas City and St. Louis? Secularism and many other isms are blinding so many who can't see. They may have 20/20 vision, but they can't see the Light of day.
Jesus warned that the way to salvation is narrow but the road to damnation is wide because so many people choose to go down these rabbit trails. So many have lost the concept of sin, which for many is a political right? The Virgin Mary warned at Fatima that more souls go to hell because of the sins against the flesh than any other reason.
There is an ancient apocryphal writing known as the "Gospel according to Bartholomew" where Jesus was asked by St. Bartholomew how many people die each day. Jesus responded 30,000, and of those who died only 53 were righteous. It was interesting that many were sent to the place we call Purgatory, but hell certainly received those who rejected the truth of Jesus.
Jesus established His Kingdom for the purpose giving aid to His people in reaching and securing eternal life in Heaven. Jesus gives His life giving Grace through His Sacraments that are given for the asking. Sadly, many ignore these gifts that Christ gave His life for.
From the New Testament, there are five crowns that are presented for the faithful by the Lord:
1) Incorruptible Crown for mastery over the sin. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” From the context, through the discipline of our bodies, the training and living our faith, we overcome sin and death.
2) Crown of Righteousness for living righteously in this world. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
3) Crown of Life for enduring trials living our Catholic Faith. “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.”
4) Crown of Joy for leading others to Christ and His Church. “Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”
5) Crown of Glory for fulfilling your calling and finishing the work assigned. “And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.”
There is also a crown of martyrdom, St. Stephen was the first recorded Catholic who had died a martyr for his faith. This is also a crown of glory that many have received, even today as we see what is happening in the Middle East and Nigeria.
Revelation 4:10 states, “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created.”
We will place our crowns before the King of kings and Lord of lords. The first of the four last things is death.
Pope St. Gregory: “Christ’s conflict with death represented our last conflict, teaching us that the agony of death is the keenest agony that man has ever felt or will ever feel. It is the will of God that man should suffer so intensely at the close of his life, in order that we may recognize and appreciate the magnitude of Christ s love for us, the inestimable benefit He has conferred on us by enduring death for our sake. For it would have been impossible for man fully to know the infinite love of God, unless he too had drunk to some extent of the bitter chalice which Christ drank.”
St. Paul gives this promise of hope, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
We are literally on this journey packing our bags for eternity! We can pack our sins around or we can pack God's grace for the journey. Our souls would be eternally lost but for the coming of the Lord Jesus to the world for love of us (John 3:16), we gain everlasting life through our enduring faith.
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you,
go forth, faithful Christian.
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the Virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the Angels and Saints. Amen