Rotating Header Image

heaven

Layoffs, Death and Preparation

 

A man must always be ready,
for death comes when and where God wills it.
(St. John Neumann)

Several weeks ago, an email was sent from the president of our company.  He spoke of the need for a reduction in staff and informed us that a layoff would take place on or before a certain date.  Immediately upon receiving this email, people began to do one or more of the following:

  • Worry that they would be one of those laid off.
  • Prepare for a possible layoff by updating their resumes and exchanging email addresses.
  • Clean out their offices, taking home personal belongings.
  • Pray.

As the time grew closer, I began to prepare.  Eventually, we reached the final day.  We were informed that those affected would be summoned beginning at 9 AM.  Like everyone else in the company, I sat at my desk and waited for my manager to appear.  Although I prayed for acceptance of God’s will, I would lapse in and out of worrying as I watched several of my coworkers being escorted to the door.  Despite the tension, I was comforted with the thought that I was prepared.  My desk was cleaned out, I exchanged business cards with several friends and final emails were sent.  Approximately 90 minutes into the process, my manager appeared at my desk and asked me to come to his office.  Fifteen minutes later I was being escorted out the door and my 15 year career at the company had come to an end.

In many ways, the layoff process is similar to death.  We all know that it’s coming, but we don’t know when.  Any day could be our last.  Although we know that death is inevitable and most know that they will be judged, people prepare in different ways.  Some worry, others ignore it, and some prepare by trying to lead a good life and/or repenting from sinful behavior.  One thing is for certain, once death comes, the time for amending our lives is over.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.  The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith.  The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.  Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation. (CCC 1021-1022)

In his book the Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis offers some profound advice:

How dull we are and hard of heart, for we think only of the present and make little provision for the life hereafter!  If you were wise, you would so order your life as though you were to die before the day is over…In the morning think that you may not live till night; and when night comes, do not be sure that you will live till tomorrow.  Therefore always be ready, and so live that you will not have an unprovided death. (Chapter 23, Meditation on Death)

At my former company, people questioned the president’s logic of sending the email announcing the layoff in advance.  For some, their Christmas was ruined because they spent the time worrying.  For the vast majority, however, they used the notice to prepare for the reality of the event.  Each of us will die one day and be judged for how we lived our lives.  The results of that judgment will determine whether we spend eternity in heaven or hell.  Changing our lives now can definitely help us to achieve the former.  Why not take advantage of the warning and prepare?

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

Contemplating Death

“Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori” (“Time Flies, Remember Death”)
–  a motto of the Knights of Columbus

I know it’s not a popular activity, but meditating upon the realities of death is extremely important to our spiritual well being.  If we desire to lead a good, holy life and live forever in Heaven, thinking about our death is imperative.  Why?  Because doing so reminds us that the temporal things of this life will pass and that we will be judged on how we lived our life.  That judgment, occurring immediately after we die, will determine whether we spend eternity in Heaven or hell!  Doesn’t it make sense to be prepared?

Last night, on my Following The Truth radio show, I devoted the program to this important topic and discussed the fact that none of us know when we will die.  Michael R., a good friend and listener, sent me the following email this morning.  His words are so powerful that I asked if I could share them.

I enjoyed your show last night.  It is strange that songs telling us that “everybody wants to go heaven, but nobody wants to go now”, commercials telling us what we have to have now in order to be happy, better people, the struggle to make a better life for ourselves and our children and our desires to have all the toys we can get, all are in direct opposition to the Glory that God offers us.  How can they compare?
 
Oh, we of such little faith that spend every minute trying to be happy now and completely blowing off the future.  How easy it is for me to tell my children that they should wait for something and yet I run out to grab that cheeseburger or some other thing that is forgotten in 5 minutes.
 
We should eagerly anticipate a good death but we know we aren’t ready to have that face to face with God.  I don’t think that it is really the fear of the unknown that bothers us as much as the fear of what is known of ourselves that haunts us and is suppressed because of our selfish desires.  We are really good at denial.  At least I am! 
 
It is a good thing to contemplate death or rather that instant of it.  Truly we are contemplating life, or our lives, leading up to it.  It aids us putting our true desire to enter into the Kingdom paramount to all else- to love the Lord with our whole being always!
 
Oh, most blessed Mother, pray for us now and at the hour of our death because my faith is so weak I sorely neglect living well so that I may die.  Let me remember always that all I want to hear then is “well done, my good and faithful servant “.
 
Gary, may you live well so that your death is a springboard into Heaven!
 
Enjoy this day the Lord has made!  It might be the last one you have to endure.

The Four Last Things – Judgment

The second of the “Last Things” is Judgment. The Church teaches that immediately after death, we will be judged. Based on our works, we will either live forever in Heaven (possibly by way of Purgatory) or Hell. We’ll discuss more about our potential destinations tomorrow, but today’s focus is on judgment.If we were to die tonight, do we feel we did all that was possible to merit eternal life in Heaven?

Did we only say good things?
“I tell you on the Day of Judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Mt 12:36-37

Did we seek to “let it go” when we were angry at someone?
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment “- Mt 5:22

Did we always speak up when people were criticizing the Church or belittling our Faith? Are we proud to tell others that we are Catholic?
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in Heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in Heaven.” – Mt 10:32-33

Could we maybe use another day to “clean up our act” a bit? If we get one, maybe a “thank you” to The Lord would be appropriate.