Our Home is with the Lord
The truth about our lives is that we will ultimately be judged. And while the Father of mercies wishes everyone saved, He will not force anyone to go to heaven because heaven is a place of love…and love is a choice. So, we must face the realities of death, judgement, heaven, and hell today, and make eternal decisions here and now.
The ultimate realities of life are death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
When our soul leaves this world, we enter into eternity where there is no more possibility of change. And so our life becomes fixed at that moment.
When faced with the reality of our own death, we must realize that our judgment at the end will be immediate. No courtrooms, no long drawn out process. It will be immediate and our judge will be Jesus. And this judgment that he will render on us will be done in truth, justice, love, and hopefully in mercy.
Full Audio Transcript
00:01 I imagine for many of us, what was much on our minds this week was the tragic accidental death of Michelle Casey, our 21 year old parishioner here who you might've seen the news report that she died on the coast and after, after falling. Her parents, Bill and Colleen, are usually at this mass. And a Bill of course is a Knight of Columbus and one of the extraordinary ministers of holy communion. Last week, uh, in the afternoon was to Sunday afternoon and I was called to the trauma center at legacy Emmanuel to be with her in her, in her final moments and to be with her family as they, uh, as they said their goodbyes. And we had a packed funeral mass yesterday morning here in the church with about 600 people, uh, coming to pay their last respects. And I was just very impressed with the way our parish pulled together and to help this family this week, especially on kind of short, short notice.
01:06 So Michelle Casey, who was 21 years old in the prime of life in a moment was gone and taken from us. You know, as a parish, we're also at the two year anniversary for the heroic sacrifice of Ricky Best also from this parish. And of course we have the, uh, we're celebrating memorial day when we remember those brave men and women who made the supreme sacrifice defending our country and our freedom and our, and our own lives. And, and of course the, the family members who experienced such loss. And in, in moments like that.
01:49 The tragic deaths such as Michelle's can wake us up to the ultimate realities of life. Where are we going? What happens when we die? What's next? And today we just heard about the beautiful vision of Heaven from the book of revelation and those words from Jesus that, uh, biblical scholars say as part of the farewell discourse that he gives to his apostles at the last supper: "Whoever loves me will keep my word and my father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling in him."
02:33 We are rational creatures. And so we're supposed to think and to consider and to ponder and to reflect upon the ultimate realities of life, death, judgment, hell and heaven. And we do this reflection not simply as something morbid or to be frightened, but it's simply the truth about life. In fact, even the ancient philosophers would say, if we want to attain wisdom, we have to think about our end because by remembering our end that will teach us how to live here and now, in the moment. And the Casey family was hit very hard with that this week.
03:18 And we can examine our lives with these four things in the light of the Lord's love and mercy. And so that first reality is death. And we know deep down, even if in our human weakness and in the culture we live in, you know, we tried to surround our lives and to structure them so that we never have to think about it or face that. But each of us, one day we'll have our own end through our day of death will come and we don't know when that will happen, whether that will be diagnosed with a terminal illness. Next week we had a car accident on the way home from mass. And again, this isn't a morbid reflection, it's just a fact. And if we're to be honest, intelligent, responsible persons, how do we live before such a fact?
04:12 You know, each one of us will have to face our end. And I'm reminded that I use, I use this in the homily yesterday with, with Michelle's Michelle's funeral, uh, that famous line by Saint Therese of Lisieux who died at age 24 from tuberculosis. She said, it's our youth in the parish will know this because it's posted on the wall of our youth room. She says this, remember the world is your ship, not your home. The world is your ship, not your home. Our home is with the Lord.
04:52 And so the second, the second reality to consider after death is judgment. And we know from our catechism, you know, judgment will come at the end of the world when our Lord comes again to bring this world to an end. We call that the general judgment, but there also is an end of the world for each one of our own lives. When, when we will pass from this world and that we call particular judgment. And our judgment at the end will be immediate. Our whole life will be immediately present to our, to us. There's no courtrooms, there's no long drawn out process. It will be immediate and our judge will be Jesus, the son of man who is also the son of God, the crucified and risen Lord who wishes to save us all. And this judgment that he will render on us will be done in truth, in justice, in love, and hopefully in mercy.
05:54 It's what we've, it will be determined by what we have or not done in this life. And a helpful image for this is the is concrete, the pouring of concrete. You know, when you, when you're pouring concrete, you can do just about anything with it. You can mold it, you can shape it, you can channel it. And it's very, it's very malleable until it's sets. And when it sets its fixed, you can't do anything with it after that. In fact, at the last mass I was saying this and one of our parishioners drives a concrete truck and he says, yeah, you have to be careful because you know what, that concrete will become part of the truck if you're not careful.
06:33 So when, so when our, when our soul leaves this world, we leave the world of time and enter into eternity where there is no more possibility of change. And so our life becomes fixed at that moment. The concrete sets, and this is one of the reasons why I felt so privileged in the trauma center last Sunday with Michelle, to be able to be there in those last hours and to give her absolution, to give her the last rites of the church. And that powerful prayers called the apostolic pardon, which, uh, which I hope to get on the time of my death. And it's good. It goes like this: "by the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the father and the son and of the Holy Spirit."
07:26 How we all hope that in our final moments, a priest of Jesus Christ will be there. And that's why you pray to Saint Joseph to have a blessed death. And from that that particular judgment with the Lord Jesus. We go as we've lived our lives according to how we've lived. The father of mercies wishes everyone saved, but he will not force anyone to go to heaven because heaven is a place of love and love is a choice.
08:03 And we are free and rational creatures, which means that we are able to love. But if we're able to love it also leaves the possibility that we will choose not to love and to reject God's love. And so we, we say hell exists even if only in the name of human freedom. So we have a choice to love or not to love, to follow his commandments or not to follow his commandments, to keep his word or not keep his word. He just told us, whoever does not love me does not keep my word. And so that's where that the, the horror of sin in our lives is that when we sin, we're basically telling the Lord we don't want him, that we want to be our own God. And if we spend a whole life doing that, and if we persist in that, and are unrepentant in that, then he will allow us to have that choice eternally to live in eternal alienation from him. It's the most horrible thing imaginable.
09:08 And so we do have the power here and now to make eternal decisions. Now is when we, the time we have to decide. So I'll tell you, in 21 years as a priest, a deathbed conversion is very rare that most of us will die the way we lived.
09:32 Now, for those that throw themselves under the mercy of the father and to repent of their sins and who have, who have had him forgive all the mortal sins of their life, the father readily bestows heaven. Heaven, eternal life in the kingdom of love. That beautiful scene from revelation and that those intimate words from our Lord Jesus, the father and I, we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
10:04 We actually have no idea how great heaven is. Heaven is the definitive fulfillment, joy and peace. It is where we have the fullest freedom to give and to receive love and the ability to give and receive love without the slightest hint of selfishness.
10:27 Imagine the relief of the soul that goes to heaven, that that soul's existence is a success and nothing will be able to take him out of that love. It will be eternal. Our highest, most intense encounters of love in this life are nothing compared to heaven. Imagine. No suffering, no unrequited love, no betrayal, no sickness, no loss, no death, no more goodbyes. And one of the primary images that the Lord gives us of Heaven is where he will wipe every tear from our eyes and that intimacy and peace and joy and fulfillment of seeing the Lord face to face and brought into his eternal embrace. It's difficult to imagine. It's like describing this world to an unborn child who has not yet seen it. To one in the womb, this world is so big and wide and colorful and adventurous. I have no idea what it's like. Heaven compared to this world is infinitely more so.
11:48 And for those who are purified perfectly of all sin, all effects of sin, all attachments to sin can enter heaven immediately. But I know that doesn't describe me by any stretch of the imagination. For most who fits that description? But the good news is that the Lord in his infinite love and mercy can purify us for Heaven after death. It's called purgatory. There's biblical evidence for it and the book of Maccabees and the in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. So also make sense when we consider the Lord's justice and mercy and how those go together. Purgatory is not something some place between heaven and hell. Purgatory is the anteroom of heaven and it's not so much a place as it is a state of transition whereby the Lord pulls us through the fire of his love burning off of the soul, all that does not belong to heaven, all that cannot enter the purity of love of heaven.
12:54 It's a beautiful act of the Lord's mercy and believe it or not, I would imagine that if we do have our wedding garment not completely clean, we will want it to be clean. We will want that purification and embrace it. Now in considering these last things, these ultimate things of life and in light of Michelle's death, I want us to focus on that last on the on heaven. We will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Heaven is our goal and to reach our goal, we should think about the goal. Desire the goal, ponder the goal, consider the means to attain the goal, which means to focus on Jesus because he is the kingdom. He is heaven.
13:51 And what the most beautiful things about our faith is that what we are doing right now is a foretaste of heaven. How is this possible? Because the Lord Jesus, the father and the Holy Spirit who reign in heaven are present here in the mass. In fact, they are the primary agents of the mass. And the Lord Jesus who reigns at the father's right hand offers his once and for all sacrifice here, here on this, on this altar, and invites the members of his body to join him in it. And this is the, so the beginnings of heaven. Here on earth is the mass.
14:43 It's like a portal into heaven. It's amazing when we think about that and that the Lord Jesus makes himself present by changing bread and wine into his body and blood. Father and I will come to him and make our dwelling with him, which means in the worthy reception of holy communion. He does that right now. It's amazing. And this is why we hunger for the Eucharist, why we are so devoted to the, to to the, to his real presence in the Eucharist and in the mass. What that means is that the veil between this world and the next is so thin. And with our faith we can reach beyond the veil knowing that we are united with those we have loved and lost in Christ.
15:44 The veil is so thin if we have the faith to know. And so that's why at the mass, if we want to be close to those we have loved and lost, we will be close to Jesus. We will be close to the Mass. We will be close to the Eucharist. Those members of his body are not separated, but are united in the body of Christ. The veil is so thin because the Lord has delivers on his promises. The father and I will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Through the Eucharistic sacrifice, heaven is already beginning. And with our faith we can know that. And with that faith, we can hope, hope, even in the face of a tragic death where there are no easy answers to we can hope in eternal life.