Traditionally, November is when Catholics focus on
what are called the “four last things”:
death, judgment, heaven and hell.
We don’t like to think about it—
but winter is coming whether we think about it or not;
whether we prepare for it or not.
And it’s the same with death.
Talking about death makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
But who are we kidding?
Do you think our kids don’t know about death?
Look at video games! Look at our TV and movies!
It’s not a question of avoiding the subject.
Rather, it’s a question of looking at it as a Christian—
or as someone who has no hope.
I have been in hospital rooms and people’s homes,
and no one would say out loud what was obvious.
I don’t see how that helps anyone, children or adults.
On the other hand, I remember a woman:
a mother and grandmother,
surrounded by her husband, children, grandchildren.
They were all holding hands, praying with her, as he breathed her last.
And I heard the husband say: “I’m broken hearted, but I’m happy.”
He lost his beloved, yet he knew she’d left this life looking for Christ.
She faced death and was ready!
We believe in life after death.
But how often do we think about what that means?
If we really we are eternal, then that changes everything.
If I live 100 years, is that long—compared with eternity?
And it’s worth asking:
how much of what I spend money on, or worry about, in this life,
is going to matter in eternity?
If you want an investment that goes beyond the grave,
Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, give a helping hand—
but, above all, help bring other people to heaven!
People are the one and only form of riches that you can take with you!
So we die, and at that moment, we stand before God.
That’s our personal judgment day.
Is that frightening?
It doesn’t have to be.
No one gets into heaven because we’re good enough.
We get there through faith in Jesus Christ.
Everyone needs mercy; and if we ask, we receive it.
One form of that mercy is purgatory.
Purgatory isn’t an alternative to heaven—
it is the front porch to heaven.
It’s where we go for a final clean-up.
But there is one catch.
Even mercy isn’t, in a sense, “enough.”
Because all this depends on one more thing.
Heaven—and thus, purgatory--is only possible for us if we want to change,
and become what Christ intends us to be.
To put it even more plainly:
Heaven is for those who want it. Really!
If we want heaven—if we want to be heavenly—we’ll live that way, here.
On the other hand, if we don’t want to live that way now,
What makes us think we’ll want it, then?
We prayed in the psalm: “When your glory appears, my joy will be full.”
That’s only true if the glory of God—his truth, his ways—give us joy.
Last week, we heard about the man in the temple
who didn’t think he had any sins.
He’s not going to change—he’s likes himself just the way he is.
God warns us away from sin:
gluttony, lust, wrath, greed, pride, sloth and envy.
Those are the seven deadly sins. Avoid them.
But I like gluttony! I like wrath! We like these things.
But what God says is this: you won’t have them in heaven.
If you can’t let go of them now—
What will you do for eternity?
You see, the danger is not
that we’ll arrive at Judgment Day
and find God’s mind made up.
No! The danger is, our mind will be made up!
Heaven can’t be heaven if we can’t be happy there.
And purgatory can’t do us any good
if we don’t want to be made ready for heaven!
If you want a definition of hell, there’s one:
What you get when happiness can’t make you happy!
So, hell is real—but let’s not stay there!
The Catholic life boils down to this.
We spend our days learning who God is, and what he loves,
and asking him to help us become people who love those things.
We love lust; God loves chastity.
We love greed; God gives with an open hand.
Then, what we prayed in the psalm will come true:
“Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”