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Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Mk. 13: 24-32

“The sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from Heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”

We tend to associate these words of Jesus with the end of the world – but they should also make us think about whether we are ready to meet Our Lord as our Judge. This reading conjures up thoughts of punishment, destruction and death, but it can also encourage us in times of distress and give us hope of a better life in the next world.

Like me, you must have thought at some time, 'Where will I be in a certain number of years?' The older we are the more that thought surfaces and we appreciate that our permanent home is not here on this Earth where our faith and our reason tell us that we have no lasting home. We are pilgrims passing through to our eternal home - Heaven or Hell. What we must never forget is that where we go is our choice.

If Heaven is our destination, we have reached it with the help of God. What God has prepared for those who love Him is beyond our imagining. As St. Paul tells us, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love Him.” It is then we shall enjoy eternal happiness and we can be certain that no person or things on this Earth would make us want to return to this vale of tears.

But before we enter Heaven, our eternal home, there may be a spell in Purgatory for we know that only those who die in perfect love of God and neighbour go straight to Heaven.

When someone we love dies we miss them tremendously and we wonder what has happened to them. One thing we Catholics and Christians can be certain of is the fact that death is not the end. The moment our soul leaves our body our particular judgement takes place. We stand before our loving Father in Heaven: if we are in perfect love with Him and our neighbour we shall go to Heaven; if we are not ready for His company we go to Purgatory where we have to be purified until we are ready to live in His presence.

Every life is like a tree which grows slanting in the direction of the wind. If this comes mostly from the east then the tree, when it dies, will almost certainly fall in that direction - it is not likely to fall towards the west! So too, if our life is directed towards our heavenly Father, it is likely that when we die we shall fall into the arms of God.

What are the pains in Purgatory? When we die we meet our heavenly Father and are given a glimpse of Him, and from that moment there is only one ardent desire we have - to be with Him forever but we now realise that because of our sins we are not ready to live in His presence. We must wait until we are purged of our imperfection and it is this waiting, this separation, that is so extremely painful. The soul is consumed with an intense desire to be with God, yet the hand of God holds it back. No words can describe the anguish of this unsatisfied craving.

Saint Gertrude had a great love for the Holy Souls and Our Lord gave her a prayer to help them. He said that whenever this prayer is recited He would release many souls from Purgatory, “Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of Your divine Son Jesus, in union with all the Holy Masses being offered today throughout the world, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”

If Hell is our destination, however, we have only ourselves to blame because it will mean that we have rejected innumerable invitations from our loving Father to change our ways, and seek a new direction that leads to Heaven. The thought of any one of us going to Hell fills me with deep sadness on two counts. It must break God’s heart to know that He is losing one of His children whom He never wants to lose – and one His Son generously laid down His life for that person yet His love has been rejected and so for that person He died in vain.

Holy Spirit, as we end the liturgical year of the Church, we ask You to let our lives always be pointed in the direction of God, our Father, so that when we die we will fall into His loving arms.

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