The moment we die and pass from this world to the next to be judged by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will determine our destiny for all eternity. Really there are only two possibilities: salvation or damnation—rejoicing in the Presence of God, His Blessed Mother, the angels and saints, or suffering the pains and torments of the damned for all eternity. Even though very sober, very serious, possibly even a bit frightening, this reality should loom before our eyes as the minutes, days, weeks, months and years evaporate before our eyes.
We should prepare for this encounter with the Lord Jesus with great calmness and peace but also with serious efforts on our part. We should beg the Lord Jesus that He be our Redeemer rather than our Judge.
The following are concrete suggestions so that we can receive the grace of all graces and that is to die in the state of grace. May we take these seriously and implement them in our daily walk with the Lord.
1. LIVE EACH DAY AS IF IT WERE OUR LAST. How much time do we really waste on a daily basis or how much have we wasted up to this point in our lives? Every day we should rise and give ourselves totally to Jesus through Mary and strive to deny the Lord nothing in imitation of Saint Therese of Lisieux.
2. FLEE FROM SIN LIKE THE PLAGUE. Many today have a mortal fear of the corona virus and this may not be a bad preoccupation. However, should we not fear something worse? How about fear of offending God through sin? How about a fear of losing our soul by committing and dying in Mortal sin? A physical virus could be disastrous and catastrophic for the body, so true. However, sin is a moral virus that eats away and corrupts the very fiber of our soul which has infinite and eternal value.
3. LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. The Great Woman Doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of Avila, noted that one of the principal reasons why we sin is because we become oblivious to the Presence of God, we forget that all our actions, thoughts and even intentions are seen by God like the sun shining down at midday.
4. PRAY MORE AND BETTER EVERY DAY. What a wonderful proposal to make: to strive to pray a little bit more and a little bit better every day. We should arrive at the point in our lives where we cannot live without prayer. It is a matter of life and death in our spiritual life. If you like the analogy: what air is to the lungs, so prayer is to the soul. No air coming in and out of the lungs, our life is on the brink of disaster. Likewise, a person without prayer will dry up, suffocate and die.
5. RECONCILE. Jesus says that if we are about to offer our gift at the altar and recognize that our brother has something against us, then we should leave our gift at the altar, go make amends and reconcile with our brother, and then return to offer the gift. In other words, Jesus wants us to at least strive to live out mercy and overcome any form of resentment in our life. What acid is to the stomach lining causing ulcers, so is resentment to the soul that is not ready and willing to seek reconciliation and forgiveness. Remember the words of the great Catholic English poet, Alexander Pope: “To err is human; to forgive is divine.”
6. NEVER DESPAIR, BUT TRUST IN GOD’S MERCY. When all is said and done, when the curtain goes down and we reach the end of our short earthly sojourn, the last word will be do we really trust in God’s infinite mercy??? Saint Paul reminds us in the Letter to the Romans: “Where sin abounds, the mercy of God abounds all the more.” (Rom 5:20) The Diary of Saint Faustina echoes the same theme: “The worst of sinners can be the greatest of all saints!” This all depends on one’s disposition of heart, an infinite, limitless and unreserved TRUST in God’s Infinite Mercy. Indeed, God’s Infinite Mercy can be compared to all the waters in all the oceans and more—indeed an infinite abyss. We must launch ourselves and plunge into this infinite abyss of Mercy! Ironically, the first canonized saint was one of the thieves hanging on his cross next to Jesus who cried out: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom!” (Lk 23:42) The reaction and response of Jesus—PURE MERCY!!! “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise!” (Lk 23:43) The triumph of the infinite ocean of God’s mercy!
7. THE GIFT OF THE CHURCH: PLENARY INDULGENCE. The Catholic Church has an infinite reservoir of graces. These can be understood and applied by means of the Indulgences, including the Plenary Indulgence. All flow from the pierced and open Heart of Jesus from which gushed forth Blood and Water. To acquire a Plenary Indulgence, the requirements are the following:
- CONFESSION. A well-prepared and Sacramental Confession made to the priest who represents our Merciful and Loving Savior, Jesus the Lord.
- SPECIAL INDULGENCED PRAYERS. If the most Holy Rosary is recited in the family or in front of the Blessed Sacrament, this is a prayer that can help us to acquire the Plenary Indulgence.
- PRAYERS FOR THE VICAR OF CHRIST. Following the Rosary, prayers must be offered for the intention of the Holy Father—Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.
- MASS AND HOLY COMMUNION. Then of capital importance is attendance at Mass, the full, active and conscious participation in Mass, and most important, the fervent and loving reception of Holy Communion—the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus.
- RENOUNCE AND REJECT SIN IN ITS TOTALITY. Finally, one must make a firm effort and determination to reject sin, both mortal and venial sin in all shapes, forms, sizes, circumstances and conditions. This of course also means to avoid the near occasion of sin, that is any person, place or thing that can lead us into sin.
If these five conditions are carried out with purity of heart and intention, then the Plenary Indulgence can be acquired and not only are all our sins forgiven but also the temporal punishment that accrues to these sins is forgiven. If you like, a new life, a clean slate, a soul as white as the snow, and upon death one could have immediate access to God. How great is God’s love and mercy to us through Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church and the Sacramental life!
8. OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY. At Fatima Our Lady asked the children, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia, to pray the Rosary in every one of the apparitions—six in total, from May through October. Every time we pray the Rosary we are preparing ourselves for a holy and happy death fifty times. How and with what words? The last words of the Hail Mary: “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” We are begging Our Lady to be with us in those last and critical moments so that we can breathe forth our soul into the hands of God!
9. BEG FOR THE SPECIAL GRACE TO RECEIVE THE LAST SACRAMENTS BEFORE DEATH. A very worthy and noble prayer that we can make to Jesus through Mary is to have the grace to receive the three Sacraments before we die, and the Apostolic Pardon. In the proper sequence and order it follows: Sacramental Confession; followed by the Anointing of the Sick; and finally, the reception of Viaticum—the Last Communion for the Wayfarer or Traveler on their Journey to Heaven. As an added bonus, the priest can offer the Apostolic Pardon which consists of these brief but powerful words: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may Almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.” With these three Sacraments received with the best of dispositions and with the final touch of God’s love and mercy in the Apostolic Pardon, there is a good chance that our death will be our birth into Heaven for all eternity!
10. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR LAST WORDS ON EARTH TO BE? I have thought of this question with a certain frequency and come to this conclusion. I would like my heart in those last moments to express three sentiments in these words: 1) “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.” (A humble recognition of my status as a sinner in desperate need of God’s forgiveness). 2) “Jesus, I trust in you!” (A limitless TRUST in Jesus’ greatest attribute—His Mercy! 3) “Jesus, I love you!” The great Doctor, poet, Mystic and saint, Saint John of the Cross, expressed this perfectly: “In the twilight of our existence on earth, we will be judged on love.”