Something I learned from my Catholic school days was the Catholic tradition of The Four Last Things: death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell. However, I didn’t learn about these things from any textbook or class, but in a conversation I had with the principal. No, I wasn’t in trouble. I was actually good friends with my principal, Sister Carmelisa.
She told me that when the day of her death comes, she pictured judgment to be like looking into a three-way mirror. One part of the mirror would show all the good that she did, another part would show the bad things she did, and the third part would show the state of her soul at the moment of her death. Although the conversation didn’t include anything about Heaven or Hell, I got my first glimpse of at least two of The Four Last Things from that small conversation.
A year after I moved from New Jersey to California, I found out that Sister Carmelisa died in a car accident. She was driving on an icy road at night, a very dangerous thing to do. I don’t know why she did that, given how she was usually such a stickler about safety, but as Hamlet said
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Today’s reflection from Ephesians cautions us to be careful about the way that we live our lives and to make the most of our time. It kind of reminds me of the phrase “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
While that quote is often thought as coming from Ecclesiastes, it actually comes from 1 Corinthians 15:30-32, which says:
“And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’”
Death is always a certainty. It’s just a matter of when. And it’s a scary thought, I’m not gonna lie. Whenever I think of my own death, I am still filled with dread at the thought because there’s so much I haven’t done yet. But the inevitability of death reminds me that I need to make the most of the time that I have. Today’s passage from Ephesians shows how:
“Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If you’re still afraid of death, that’s okay. Even though death is one of the four last things, there’s a joy in knowing that even death will die, as Audrey Assad sings in her wonderful song Death, Be Not Proud. Remember, sisters in Christ, that if we die living a Christ-filled life, we will be led to Heaven. The thought of Heaven casts out any fear of how we will die.
Pray for the grace of a happy death, dearest sisters in Christ, and make the most of your day today!
What are your perspectives on death? How has it affected your life?
How can we make the most of our days while knowing of the four last things?
Action: Pray for the souls of the faithful departed and for all the souls in Purgatory.