This Gospel is read as part of the vigil prayers, for a funeral,
which usually takes place at the funeral home.
It’s easy to see why, because it offers us such an assurance:
if we are ready for Jesus when he comes to us,
he will not only take us to heaven,
but he, the Lord, will actually wait on us!
As I often say after I read this, at the funeral home,
if you hadn’t heard me just read that from the Gospel,
you might not believe God had made such a promise. But there it is.
So, these readings invite us to think about being ready –
ready for God to call us.
And it calls to mind what we used to call “a happy death” –
that is, a well-provided-for death.
So let’s talk about what that is.
A well-provided-for death means
we have the chance to go to confession,
and to receive the sacrament of anointing,
and above all, to receive the Holy Eucharist.
A well-provided-for death means
we can make our peace with others
and face eternity with a clean conscience.
An especially beautiful way this happens
is when family are gathered with the person who is dying,
and they are praying together.
If the priest is called – not necessarily at the exact moment,
but in the last few weeks or days –
then he can help the family with all this.
When this happens, it is a beautiful thing,
not only for the one who is facing eternity, but for everyone.
Now, here’s the thing. We don’t always get a warning. What then?
Well, then it comes down to how we live our daily lives, doesn’t it?
My grandmother had a saying: “being a Catholic can be a hard life –
but an easy death.” By that, she meant a faithful, practicing Catholic.
What’s “hard” about it?
Forgiving is hard. Keeping custody of the eyes is hard.
Being honest and guarding our tongues is hard.
Putting God first can be hard.
But, in another sense, it’s not hard at all.
How to be faithful isn’t a secret. And we have a lot of help.
That’s what the Church, the Body of Christ, is for.
If you’re trying to live a Christian life, don’t try to do it alone.
That makes it harder.
Instead, seek out other practicing Catholics, and support one another.
If you’re running with folks who are out late drinking and partying,
guess what you’re probably going to end up doing?
This is why God gave us each other, and above all,
it’s why he gave us the saints, especially Mary, the Mother of God.
If you ever think, I don’t know how to be a good Catholic,
then take a long, hard look at the saints.
Pick one. Who is your own patron saint? Don’t know? You can find out.
Ask your parents if they had a saint in mind when they named you.
If not, then look up your own name,
and find out what saints had that name.
And if that doesn’t work, then you can just pick a saint,
and make him or her your patron saint.
Patron saints are not like girlfriends or boyfriends –
you can have as many as you want, and they don’t get jealous!
The thing about heaven, we’re not going to end up there by surprise.
And we won’t get there by being kidnapped. If we get to heaven,
it will be because we aimed to get there; we wanted to be there;
because that’s the treasure we wanted most of all.
So, you and I can take our chances
and hope we’ll get a chance to go to confession in your final hour;
or, we can get to confession every month.
You can hope that you’ll have a priest bring you holy communion
at the end; or, you can receive Jesus’ Body and Blood each Sunday,
or even daily, if you want.
We can hope we’ll make peace with others, someday, or…
Well, you get the idea.
Is today my last day? Is it yours? We can’t know. But we can be ready.