Saturday, October 29, 2005

“STAY AWAKE AND BE READY!”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church supplies this sobering statement: "The Church is clear in its teachings concerning the existence of hell and its eternal duration. Immediately after death, the souls of those who die in the state of mortal sin descend to hell where they are subject to the pains of eternal fire. The principal punishment in hell consists in eternal separation from God, who is the source of life and happiness and for whom man was created" (N.1035).
The existence of eternal punishment, known as hell, is a reality that no Catholic is free to reject. Our Divine Savior Himself was most clear concerning the concrete existence of hell. We read in the Catechism, N. 1034: "Jesus declares with extremely strong words that He `will send His angels who will gather all evildoers and hurl them into the fiery furnace' (Matthew 13: 41-42). Then He will say to the damned, `depart from me you accursed ones into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Matthew 25: 41)."
No one likes to preach about hell; it is not an endearing topic. It is far more pleasant to speak of love and heaven. However, failure to preach of hell is a betrayal of the complete Gospel message. It not only lulls God's people into a false sense of security but it plays directly into the hands of the evil one. Satan is most anxious to have us believe that hell does not exist.
Our Blessed Lord did not become man to leave us in our sins. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became Man to lift us out of sin and to bring us to heaven with Him. The very first recorded words of Jesus were: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1: 15). But Our Lord will not force us against our will. We must cooperate with His graces by allowing ourselves to be "washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb." Our Savior is quite clear about the consequences of refusing His saving grace. For this reason, St. Paul makes no effort to moderate his language. The wages of sin, he insists, is death, eternal death (see Romans 6: 23).
The liturgy reminds us of this throughout the year, especially during this month of November. This is precisely the message of today's liturgy. In the Gospel we read of the wise virgins as opposed to the foolish. The wise virgins represent those who live their lives in accord with the Gospel of Jesus. The foolish virgins, on the other hand, are those who live their lives apart from the teachings of Christ. When the bridegroom arrives, they are not ready.
The Bridegroom is Jesus Christ. The foolish virgins lived and died in unrepentant mortal sin. Therefore, they could not enter the heavenly banquet of the bridegroom. To insure that we understand the consequences of unrepentant sin, Our Blessed Lord gives us this compelling warning. When they knocked: "The door was barred!” “Master, master,” they cried, “Open the door for us.” The frightening answer of the Lord is clear: “I know you not!”
The moral of the story is that we must be vigilant by being ready for death. “Stay awake and be ready!” If we refuse to repent, if we reject the saving power of Christ Crucified on the Cross of Calvary, then divine mercy demands divine justice. Today's Gospel Acclamation tells the story: "Be watchful and ready: you know not when the Son of Man is coming."
When is the last time that we have made a good Confession? If it has been weeks or months or years, the time for Confession is today! “You know not the day nor the hour!”

Father Richard J. Rego, S.T.L.

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