Homily – Year C – 32nd Sunday – Deacon Pat Kearns
Listening to today’s readings and Gospel message you probably heard a variety of issues:
- perverse and wicked people,
- and even a wife married to seven brothers,
How often in our lives to do we talk about our death, or the end of our life with those around us, especially those close to us like our spouses, family, and friends? It is much easier to talk about the death of others than it is to talk about our own death. Yet, this is so very important, and the message today will give us much to think about.
As Catholics, we are to be living our lives in preparation for death. A life well-lived, especially in regard to a life well-lived in the faith, brings about a comfortable death and ease of transition from this life to the next. But why is it that so many people fear death? Fear of death comes from a lack of faith and hope. Faith is the foundation of our spiritual life that we are to have as Catholics, and it is with this faith that brings us hope. It is that hope that brings us courage in the light of difficulty, even when that difficulty includes the possibility of death. That hope is the understanding that there will be life after death, a life of such love, peace, and tranquility like we have never seen or experienced before.
So how does this all come about? Like many things in life, it begins in the family. The Father brings faith and truth into the home. Not exclusively, but that is his role and task. The wife embraces that faith and truth, internalizes it, and turns it into love and charity. It is the wife who is the heart and love of the home. And when the father who is faith, mixes with the wife who is love, working together, springs forth hope. With faith and hope, we are able to combat fear. The fear of death is only present when we are lacking faith and hope in our lives. Especially because it is faith and hope that specifically brings forth courage.
Looking at our first reading of today, it speaks of a mother and her seven sons who obviously had strong faith, a faith that had been nourished, and a faith that had been well-lived, as evident by their amazing hope. Some of their reactions to the threat of being put to death were:
- “The King of the world will raise us up to live again.”
- “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up.”
- “We are ready to die rather than turn away from God.”
Their faith created their hope and even in the midst of being put to death, they remained courageous. Hope is so strong that not even death can break it.
The second reading speaks of this hope. Saint Paul shares that the Lord Jesus, and God our Father, who has loved us has also given us everlasting encouragement and good HOPE through His grace, encourages our hearts and strengthens us in every good deed and word. We are to be cognizant of this and realizing that embracing the virtuous Catholic life also brings with it the grace of a happy death. Don’t we all want the grace of a happy death?
At this point, you might be asking how is it that we can embrace our Catholic lives, our Catholic faith, be living our lives well, and how to be prepared for when difficult times come, especially times that might involve death. First of all, we are to do the basics of what it means to be Catholic.
- We are to speak and listen to God daily in prayer.
- We are to attend weekly Mass and holy days of obligation.
- We should cleanse our souls quickly every time they become stained with mortal sin through the Sacrament of confession.
- We are to be charitable with our time, talents, and treasure.
- We are to learn our faith and especially what the Church teaches about death, so that we are well prepared to make the right decisions for ourselves and for our loved ones.
As many of you know, I have worked in health care, in hospitals, and with patients and families for over 35 years. I have seen many peaceful, holy, and inspiring deaths, with supportive family and friends, circled around the person in prayer and in love. I have seen lonely deaths. I have also witnessed some very troublesome and chaotic deaths with families being torn apart by the need to make certain care decisions, often in haste, and without any knowledge from a prior discussion with the person who the decision will affect the most. Often, the family has no idea what the person would want or not want done.
This brings us back to my initial question; How often in our lives to do we talk about our death, or the end of our life with those around us, especially those close to us like our spouses, family, and friends? If we are desiring to have a peaceful and comfortable death, we need to live our lives well, and to make sure we share our thoughts and ideas about death with those the closest to us. Because the time may come when we are not able to communicate our desires and we will be relying on others to make those decisions for us. The decisions often include such things as being placed on a ventilator, having feeding tubes placed or not placed, performing or not performing CPR, just to mention a few. Can you imagine the stress placed on an individual who must make these decisions for someone else when they truly do not know what the person would have desired?
There are many mechanisms available for a person to document their specific desires so that they can be honored at such a critical time, like Advance Directives, Living Wills, and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care. These documents are easily available and can be obtained often for free on the internet, from physician’s offices, and even at many parishes, but they do not take the place of sitting down with one’s family and having a discussion about how exactly one feels about death and the processes surrounding it.
In conclusion, there are many practical things that can be done, and should be done, well in advance, as previously mentioned, to clearly give guidance to family, friends, and care providers, describing what your wishes are regarding what to do and not to do if a time comes where you cannot speak for yourself. This will ensure your wishes are honored and will prevent any unnecessary stress or guilt on others. We should also ensure that we clearly understand the teachings of our faith on end of life issues by speaking to an informed priest, deacon, or others knowledgeable in the faith. One can also reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church for sound advice.
Additionally, we should be focused on living a life “well-lived in the faith.”
And always remembering that:
- Our Faith truly understood and truly lived brings us hope.
- Faith mixed with love springs forth hope.
- Hope is what fuels our lives as Christians.
- It is what prepares us for those difficult times in life, even times that might include death.
- It is what gives us courage and allows us to overcome fear.
Catholic hope is so powerful, so truly powerful, nothing can break it, not even death. Amen