Today’s Sunday gospel (Luke 12:35-40, shorter form) was:
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’
The clear theme is to be ever-ready for our death, our encounter with the Lord and Judgement. For some of us this will be a sudden event, an “hour” we do not expect – a hear attack, a car accident – and for more of us this will be an event that we do have time to prepare for.
When I got my cancer diagnosis back in March 4th 2013, the doctor said “It doest look good”, code language for terminal. Some 60% of my bone marrow was cancerous and I had entered kidney failure from the high levels of calcium in my blood.
At that time I prepared for Confession by making a general examination of my whole life and thought about any areas of sinfulness that I may not have fully acknowledged in previous confessions. I dredged up a few points that I brought to confession along with my usual monthly ‘laundry list’. These are venial sins that come from weaknesses in my human nature. I keep working away on the list and trust that with the grace of the sacrament I will overcome these with time. Even with venial sins we are still in “the state of grace” and possess the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls.
If in such circumstances one was to discern grave or mortal (deadly) sins, one should not delay in confessing them along with a firm purpose of amendment and a good faith effort to make restitution where applicable. Mortal sins separate us definitively from God and if we die in such a state, we seriously risk eternal separation from God. If a priest and confession are not accessible, then one should make a perfect act of contrition and have sacramental confession at the first opportunity. Perfect contrition for sins is sorrow because we have offended the goodness of God. Imperfect contrition is sorrow motivated by fear and the possible eternal loss of our soul. Imperfect contrition is sufficient when we have sacramental confession.
Whenever we confess it is important not to re-confess old sins because this can give the impression that they weren’t forgiven in the first place – a somewhat heretical position to hold. If we didn’t fully confess a past offence, then it is appropriate to do so when it comes to mind: e.g. I may have confessed getting drunk but omitted to say that I drove home afterwards and endangered other people’s lives. It is good when we confess to renew our sense of sorrow for all past sins and express our gratitude to God for the fresh beginnings that repentance and his mercy makes possible.
After making Confession, I received the Sacrament of the Sick which in this particular circumstance can be termed “Last Rites”. This was followed by Holy Communion. In danger of death, Holy Communion is also called “Viaticum” – Latin for “Food for the Journey” to heaven.
These 3 sacraments are the ideal preparation for leaving this world and the Final Judgement.
This morning I was reading the Catholic Voice and read an article on Cardinal Sarah’s book God or Nothing. This quote from page 192 says: “There is a great sadness in claiming to want to indulge in limitless pleasures, whereas the most beautiful joy is to remain simply with God, allowing him to clothe us with light and purity.”