The quest for immortality is something as old as time itself. We all want to live for as long as possible. I once read an article about a 91-year-old woman who asked her priest to pray that she may live a long life. It’s a bit shocking, but again, I watch a show where a 400-year-old vampire lamented that her life was too short.
Why do we want a long life so badly? CS Lewis said:
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
So what is that other world that CS Lewis talks about? Heaven. Whether we realize it or not, our hearts long to be in God’s presence for eternity. Heaven, however, isn’t easily gained. And for whatever reason, God chose to create us so that we live in this world first before entering into the next one. So what is going to sustain us and prepare us for eternal life?
The answer lies in the Eucharist. In today’s reading, Jesus tells his disciples
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
When we receive the Eucharist, the sacrament fills us with strength and grace that nourishes us spiritually.
There is one other time that we receive the Eucharist outside of the Mass: during Last Rites. The Last Rites is the last time we receive the sacraments before we die. The most important part of the Last Rites is when we receive Communion, which is also called “Viaticum” in this context. This last Eucharist is our food for the road on our way to our final resting place.
St. John Paul II was blessed enough to receive Viaticum on his deathbed, but given that he was the Pope, he received this last Eucharist as he celebrated Mass. In spite of the fact that he was bedridden, he pleaded with the priests in the room with him to celebrate Mass one last time. It wasn’t long after the Mass ended that St. John Paul II died. What made this death special was not just that he happened to be the pope or the fact that there were thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square and millions around the world praying for him, but that he did so on the Vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy, on the First Saturday of the month, which is dedicated to Mary. His devotion to Jesus and Mary compelled him to celebrate Mass in spite of him being at death’s door and God granted him the grace of a happy death, in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
It’s scary to think of dying. It’s one reason why I hate post-apocalyptic sci-fi books because it seems like we all secretly long for the apocalypse to come. But my faith in Christ assures me this: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” So even if the end of the world were to come tomorrow, I won’t be afraid because I know that as long as I am faithful and follow God, I will be raised up on the last day.
My challenge for you today is that whenever you go to Adoration, think about the last days of your life. How do you want to die? What will your last words be? And most of all, would God be pleased with your life? Contemplate today’s passage and meditate on what you want to say.
St. Joseph, grant us a long life and the grace of a happy death.
God bless, dearest sisters in Christ!