The whole world is very scared because the threat of death is very real; death that is not a result of war or terrorism, but death due to sickness. The Word of God is about the burial of Ezekiel and Lazarus. Death chooses no one—rich or poor, good or bad, young or old. When we were born, we had a twin and the name of our twin is Sister Death. We do not know how we will earn a living; we do not know where we will study; we do not know where this will end. But at the time of birth, it is very certain that the person born will die. And we are afraid because we cannot stop it. We cannot escape our own death and we also cannot stop the death of our loved ones. Death is the great equalizer. All of us will die.
While we are alive and passing through this world, we know that death does not come only once. Death comes in many forms. Frontliners, unmindful of the risks to themselves, face death for the welfare of others. OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), mother or father, leave their own country to give their children a good future. It is death when you study very well or when you remain loyal in a relationship even if you are tempted to be unfaithful. That is death.
My dear brothers and sisters, what I mean is when death in this world comes, we will be judged according to how we have given up our life for others. We will no longer fear death if we practice how to die. This means that we shared in the death of Jesus and since we shared in the death of Jesus, we can smile at death when we breathe our last in our final moments. You will no longer have any fear and you can say, “Sister Death, I am ready to go because I have befriended you all my life. I have spent my life living for others. I have spent my life sacrificing for others. I am not afraid to die because I know that this death is my pathway to enter the Father’s house.” Death is a blessing and so we say: Life does not end but only changes form.
In the letter of St. Paul, the second thing we fear is judgement. Judgement, we are soul and body. What will be judged at the end after we die? Not the body. The doctor looks at the body, but the soul will be judged. Our souls are forever. Our bodies will die. Our bodies can be cremated. Our bodies can be eaten by worms but not our souls; we are souls and our destiny is forever. And what will happen? God who knows everything will judge our soul. How can we be pleasing when the time of judgement comes? How can we please the Lord at the moment of judgment? My dear brothers and sisters, while here on earth, we have to make judgements. We have to make judgements for ourselves. Will you do bad things, or do good? Will you choose God or sin? Will you choose your own welfare or the welfare of others? Will you choose to be an instrument of peace or will you sow anger?
We make judgements while we are alive. We cannot avoid this. However, in reality we judge others instead of judging ourselves and making the right decisions. That is self-righteousness. That is arrogance. That is pride. But there is a judgement that we need while living here on earth. It is the judgement of conscience. It is the judgement using the little voice that God has given us. This is right; do this. That is wrong; avoid it. We can do this. There is judgement and we cannot hide from the Eternal Judge. There is no motion for reconsideration. Lawyers cannot defend us. We cannot create lies because God will tell us, “I know everything” and God, the Ultimate Judge, will ask us how we were as judge to the bad and to the good—by being selfish or by loving others and dealing with them (fairly). We will be judged, and this coronavirus that is making all of us afraid is a reminder for us to always choose the Lord. We have forgotten the Lord. We have forsaken the Lord. Now we ask: where is God? Now God asks us: where are you?
Death, judgement. The last two are together, hell and heaven. It is good for us to meditate on these in the context of the Word of God that we heard. What is hell? Fulton Sheen said, “Hell is pain without love.” What is hell? Hell is the reward that proud people give to themselves. The proud will not enter heaven. The arrogant and the selfish will not enter the kingdom of God. St. Augustine said many people fear hell. Many people are afraid of the coronavirus. May the fear we have for the coronavirus be the same fear that we have for hell.
May the fear of going to hell lead to an intense desire to do what is good. Let us allow the terror of hell to lead us to fervor for holiness. May the fear of going to hell, the fear of the coronavirus and of being infected make us clean, compassionate, and holy; and make us choose goodness and God at all times. The coronavirus is scary. Hell is scary. I hope the fear of infection and the fear of hell will bring about in us a burning desire to love God. This is the only kind of fire that should not be feared. If our love for God and other people does not burn, what awaits us is eternal pain without love, without hope. And what is heaven? Heaven is love without pain.
All love while we are in this world is love that hurts and causes inner pain. But in heaven, love does not hurt; it is without pain. And heaven is a gift. Because of the quarantine and the need to stay home, we now see free things which we have not appreciated. We realize the importance of family as well as the value of being alone, instead of always going to parties, as a solution to our sadness. There is an emptiness, there is a loneliness that only God—solitude with Him—can fill up.
My dear brothers and sisters, the best things in life are free. COVID is teaching us that the best things in life are free. You don’t pay for the invisible beautiful things in life. Happiness that is bought is fleeting and only addicting. However, happiness that is not paid—which is coming from God, coming from friendship, coming from concern, coming from fellowship with others—are all blessings. Absolutely free. No payment. My dear brothers and sisters, heaven is not cheap but you cannot buy heaven because the price tag of heaven is the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heaven is real, it is a gift. Heaven is real, and may the gifts we have received here on earth be a foretaste of the glory of heaven. Four truths on death: we will all die; we have no control when we die; but when we die, we will be judged according to how we died for others; and there is no greater love than to die for your beloved.
There is Judgement and we cannot hide from the Eternal Judge. But we have “judgements” with small “j’ to make here on earth. And when you judge, always choose what is good. Always choose what is right. Always choose to be loving. Always choose to be holy. Hell is real but let the fear of hell leads you to do good. Heaven is a gift; and let heaven as grace open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to the reality that the joys, the happiness that we long for have no price tag. Moths cannot eat up, rust cannot destroy. Heaven is a gift; love is a gift; and the crisis that we are going through now teaches us these beautiful lessons. Lord stay with us, teach us.Deaths