So here we are – rapidly approaching mid-December – the beautiful penitential season of Advent, passing us by amidst the annual and ever-increasing flurry of premature and disproportionate obsession with “Christmas” … you get the gist. We all know that Advent is a two part symphony as it were, a ‘game in two halves’ as they say in sporting/football parlance with the first two weeks focusing our attention on the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. But how often that focus gets pushed aside by all the rush to bring the goodness and beauty of December 25th far too early, and when we are often ill-prepared spiritually and even emotionally for it. It is hard – what with school nativity plays happening prior to Gaudete Sunday – in this atmosphere then to think about what we used to call the Four Last Things – death, judgement, heaven and hell. But focus and reflect on them we must if we’re going to stand any chance of experiencing that rebirth of the Christ Child in our hearts and lives at Christmastide. So here’s a thought…
Death – well, in terms of family – and we’ve all experienced it to various degrees – loss, grief and mourning affects us all. And when we pray for the eternal rest of our loved ones, it’s that useful reminder to us especially in talking to our children and grandchildren that as Christians death is a friend not an enemy and we prepare for it every day, hopefully by remaining close to Jesus who conquered death.
Judgement – judging, assessing, evaluating, being prudent and cautious is the stuff of everyday life, especially in family and work aspects. We all do it all the time, so the thought of being judged one day – both in the particular judgement immediately after our death and in the general judgement at the end of time – shouldn’t frighten us. Trying our best to consistently live by and with the inner peace of a clear conscience helps us know that when THE judgement of God comes, we will face the One who knows what justice really is.
Heaven – think of all the beautiful, cherished and rich memories you have of joy in your life especially those family moments and events which brought profound happiness and fulfilment. They are all a foretaste of what we will experience in heaven. Why else does God invite us to the eternal wedding feast of heaven?
Hell…. Can any of us really not relate to those hellish moments in our lives when all seemed desolate and, instead of sensing a real presence of God, we felt a real absence of Him, mostly because of things we ourselves had done rather than injustices suffered by us? We’ve all had harrowing moments, and who in their right mind would want an eternity of those? Christ harrowed hell on Holy Saturday, and He waits for us to surrender to Him what’s hellish in our lives so He can fill us with His pure light and grace. And if we don’t have time to discuss all this at the meal table, at least let us pledge as parents, grandparents and godparents to witness to these Four Last Things by making a good confession before Christmas where in that sacred tribunal of the confessional we die to our sins – death – by exposing them to the light of God’s truth – and judgment – so that we’re building the Kingdom by a clear conscience – heaven – and renewing our baptism in rejecting Satan the Father of Lies – hell.
May Immaculate Mary, watch over us all this Advent as we honour you on 8th December as the sinless one.
– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster