Tag Archives: heaven

The end times are indeed near at hand…

Corcovado jesus

Corcovado Jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The end times are indeed near at hand. That is not to say that the “12/12/2012” Mayan prediction of the end of the world is true –it is not– or that the rapture approach is insightful. But if you really believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior then an acknowledgement of our living in the end times is the right way to live. The Scripture readings in these final weeks of the liturgical year, but especially this week, prepare the believer to face the fact of the final things, sometimes called the Four Last Things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. We can’t get away from these things. If we could, then there would be no need of a Messiah, of the Cross and Resurrection, the Eucharist, the sacraments, the Church, and a spiritual life; no need for salvation. If there is no probability of hell, then there is no need of salvation.

The subject of the Four Last Things was taken up by Pope John Paul II in the Wednesday Audiences in July and August of 1999. Look them up, they are worth a good review. By way of summary, let me draw attention to a few things the Pontiff said:
  • heaven “is not an abstraction nor a physical place amid the clouds, but a living and personal relationship with the Holy Trinity;
  • When this world has passed away, those who accepted God in their lives and were sincerely open to his love, at least at the moment of death, will enjoy that fullness of communion with God, which is the goal of human existence”;
  • the hell some will enjoy is not the result of God willing the death of the person but the result of the person not desiring the love and mercy God has offered, that he has freely given;
  • the Pope spoke of the danger of rigidly holding a literal interpretation of the Scriptural images of hell: for John Paul, and therefore us, “the inextinguishable fire” and “burning oven” in the biblical narrative points the hearer to “indicate the complete frustration and vacuity of a life without God”;
  • we know that hell exists; we don’t know the population of hell; Cf. Cardinal Avery Dulles’ famous First Things article, “The Population of Hell”; John Paul says that hell is not something that we can know but that real damnation “remains a possibility”;
  • On purgatory the Pope said, is the state of being “before we enter into God’s kingdom, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated, every imperfection in our soul must be corrected. This is exactly what takes place in purgatory”;
  • Purgatory is “the process of purification for those who die in the love of God but are not completely imbued with that love”; 
  • even though Christ holds His hand in friendship, that is, in love, the extension of our hand “does not exclude they duty to present ourselves pure and whole before God.”
  • Read the Catechism at paragraph 1861.
Perhaps tying all this together can be seen in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians where he says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you will appear with him in glory” (3:2-4) And in the collect for this week’s Mass: “Stir up the will of your faithful, we pray, O Lord, that, striving more eagerly to bring your divine work to fruitful completion, they may receive in greater measure the healing remedies your kindness bestows.”
What ought be my approach to the four last things today, and in the years to come? Well, if I truly believe that Jesus is real, then the nihilistic approach is not a winning one. If I believe what Jesus exhorted us to consider as genuine, “Do not be afraid” then fear (sinful activity) can’t rule my life. If I believe that God is always present, then I ought to receive the sacraments of Confession and frequently receive the medicine of Immortality –the Holy Eucharist– reminding myself that Jesus told us that he’d be with us to the end of the world. His presence is neither magic nor fiction, but a real presence that no other warm body can ever give. These are the things that our spiritual life needs to be fed with, these are the treasures given by the all-loving, all-powerful God.
One of the monks at New Skete Monastery (in New York) said the following at the Divine Liturgy:

So how can we honestly and proactively approach today’s feast, and this holiday season in a way that will get us past the public façade of wise-guy banter and beyond the disconnect between hard realities and sincere beliefs and honest ideals? How might we bravely allow our deeper humanity to shine forth in the midst of some extreme assaults on such things as tenderness, hope, and compassion?

Today’s readings, along with monastic wisdom and psychological insight suggest the following: Daily if not hourly slow down the frantic pace of our media interaction, verbosity, and endless tasks: daily if not hourly return to the temple of our own person and the holy and fertile ground of our interior life. Daily if not continually express appreciation for whatever someone does that makes my life richer today: Daily or at least once in a while do something simple but concrete and different, for the express purpose of nurturing the human spirit, within yourself, for someone else, and for the future.

In these days in the post Christ the King observance and before Advent, let’s pray for the grace to know ourselves more deeply so as to accept more fully “divine work” in our lives with the gift of discernment showing us the way to the Father.

Souls in Purgatory and our obligation


Thumbnail image for St Gregory delivers the soul of monk GB Crespi.jpgThe month of November is the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I was thinking after a funeral celebrated earlier today for a friend, Jack, who died last Saturday, about my on-going responsibility for the souls in purgatory. This after being reminded that I am called, as are all the baptized, to be an echo of the encounter with Christ in this world, but also in eternal life. What I do here and now has a direct consequence in the later in the promised Destiny with the Savior.

Is it a matter of saying the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and the Glory Be with the Eternal Rest prayers around the time of a person’s death, or only on the anniversary of death of a loved one or friend? Somehow I doubt it.

The law of charity that I think Christians are called to live with certainty makes a claim on us to pray for the dead and dedicate some portion of prayer, fasting and almsgiving for the Church Suffering (the Holy Souls) so that one day they become part of the Church Triumphant. Being Friends in the Lord (disciples of Christ) can’t be indifferent to those who have died. We believe that the bonds of love don’t unravel with the death of the body. We promise the dying that we won’t forget them. If this is true, then why do we so often forget to have a Mass offered for their intentions, or say a rosary for our loved ones, or absent ourselves from visiting the cemetery? Mass, the rosary and a visit are concrete acts of love that have a real consequence for real people we knew and loved in this life.

Consider the image of posted above is a example of spiritual works effecting the soul of another. Here the Baroque Master Giovanni Battista Crespi, “Il Cerano” (1573-1632) paints in 1617 Saint Gregory the Great “delivering the soul of a monk.” The deliverance is the result of the monk and pope Gregory offering Mass for the soul of a monk. The depths of mercy and love are mined by the devotion of the Mass for another.

As faithful Christians we state, in faith, that we will be reunited with those we knew and loved in this life with those who have gone before us. So, because of love, we reach out with the hand of prayer and charitable acts giving help to those being purged of the last vestiges sin will soon be fully capable of being with God in the Beatific Vision (heaven).

What does the Church teach about Purgatory?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Paragraph 1030: All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Paragraph 1031: The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of cleansing fire. As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age but certain others in the age to come.

Paragraph 1472 excerpted: This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin.

For more on purgatory you can read here.

In a newsletter I periodically read, the entry for today said,

The Holy Souls in Purgatory. Purgatory has been described, as a “cleansing fire” that burns away the dross of sins on our souls. Saint Paul wrote those of being saved “yet so as through fire” and whether or not the soul endures a literal fire, its purification does involve suffering. The time each soul spends there, and the severity of the pains it experiences, varies. However, our prayers for these souls can help alleviate their sufferings and help them reach heaven more quickly. Although they can no longer pray for themselves, they can and do pray for us as well out of gratitude! In addition we can help them by having masses said for the departed and by engaging in works of cha
rity and sacrifice on their behalf.

God keeps us waiting because…

“Why does God, who is love, keep us waiting?
Because He is love, and seeks love. Love that does not know how to wait is not
love. To love is to give ourselves. No only for a fraction of a lifetime, nor
with a part of its strength: love is, and seeks, the total gift of self….
Delays in union [with God] are not time lost; far from it. God sees very far
ahead; He makes wonderful use of what we call evilof our wanderings, our
hesitations and detours
, although He does not love them or want them. It is at these
moments, above all, that we need confidence and perseverance. The prayer,
whether for ourselves or for others, that is not discouraged, which persists
and besieges Heaven, touches God’s heart; and that is why He tells us to

Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart.
A French Carthusian monk (1877-1945) of the Charterhouse of La Valsainte, Switzerland

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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