“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
These are words of Jesus to the disciples as they gazed on the grandeur of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus seems to be mixing descriptions about both the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD and his second coming at some later date.
His message to the disciples and us: Be watchful; be ready to meet him either at our physical death or at his second coming if we are still alive. He says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” (vs. 34)
We know neither the day of our death nor the day of Jesus’ second coming, only that both will certainly occur. Jesus is urging us not to let the cares of the world overtake our lives and push aside God’s desire and purpose for each of us. Since the non-physical aspect of our existence (our souls) lasts beyond our physical lives, Jesus is saying he wants us to end up with the Father and not separated from him forever in hell.
We may not hear a lot about hell these days. It is interesting that during the apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, she showed the three children to whom she appeared a short vision of hell to emphasize its horrors and the absolute necessity to pray for the salvation of souls and the direction of the world at large. She warned that if people did not change their ways, a worse war than the present would come and that Russia would continue to spread its errors and persecution of the church.
This past weekend I attended an Arlington Diocesan Men’s Conference at which one of the speakers, Father Donald Haggerty, raised the question of what happened to the other thief at Jesus’ crucifixion. Luke reports that he hurled insults at Jesus, mocking him and saying, “Aren’t you the Christ. Save yourself and us.” The so-called good thief rebuked him, and then asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. We all remember Jesus’ response, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Father Haggarty noted that Mary, who was standing at the foot of the cross, watched the other thief die, with his soul lost forever. Haggarty suggested that Mary’s soul was pierced not only for the death of Jesus, but for the other thief as well. He concluded, “It is a serious thing to be aware of souls.”
With the busyness of everyday life and the distractions of getting ahead in this world, we may tend to neglect our own souls and the souls of loved ones and others. During this lent as we prepare to give special attention to the death and resurrection of our Lord, may we renew our prayer and actions to grow closer to God and pray for the souls of others.
“Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” (Luke 16:23)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)