The Penitential Practices of Lent

March 3rd, 2017

Lenten

The Lenten season is a time for getting our lives in order and turned in the right direction as together the Church makes the ascent up to Jerusalem and the Upper Room and Calvary and the empty tomb. It is a calling to conversion and preparation, including traditional penitential practices. For example, in addition to the ashes and sacramental confession, this “is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving,” says Pope Francis in his Message for Lent 2017.

These penitential practices to block out all the noise and busyness of the world, and get our priorities straight, really are not separate, but interrelated. Christians fast, including meatless Fridays and sacrificing enjoyment of other things, not for simple deprivation, but as a step toward purification and progress toward greater love of the Lord, who fasted as well in the desert and before he endured his Passion for our sake.

The fast acceptable to the Lord means “setting free the oppressed,” and “sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them” (Isaiah 58:6-7). Also, by feeling hungry for a while, we might better identify with those who experience hunger every day.

Our devotions and penitential practices should, of course, begin with prayer, with opening and raising up our hearts to God in communion with the whole people of God. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are to be done in a spirit of humility and love of God and neighbor. Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee who prayed with an air of moral superiority and scorn for others as he took pride before God in how much he fasted and gave alms. Meanwhile, a nearby tax collector humbly confessed himself a sinner and prayed for God’s mercy. “I tell you,” said Jesus, “the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:10-14).

Pope Francis points to a similar parable in his Lenten Message – the story of the poor Lazarus and the rich man “who dresses like a king and acts like a god,” as described by the Holy Father. “In fact, there was no place for God in his life.” Accordingly, the rich man was blind to the wretched hungry man lying at his door and, in the rich man’s interior emptiness, this led to him suffering in the netherworld when he died, while Lazarus, who suffered here, enjoyed the riches of heaven.

Lent reminds us to conduct ourselves “in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ,” loving him and others (Philippians 1:27). We give up something, give in charity, empty ourselves and open our hearts to make room for something much, much better. By dying to self in the Lord, we will rise with him in eternal life (cf. Romans 8:1-13).

The Light is ON this Lenten Season

March 1st, 2017


Just as the Church has special days for feasting, today, we enter into the great season of fasting.  The Sign of the Cross will be traced with ashes on our foreheads as an outward sign of our inner poverty and hunger, and we begin penitential practices aimed toward conversion and purification.  An important part of purification is reflecting on our thoughts and conduct that harm our relationship with God and with others.  We know these wrongs as sin, which is “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (CCC 1849).

We are given Lent to prepare to celebrate at Easter Jesus’ death and resurrection so that our sins do not mark our lives forever, but there is instead a way to own up to our failure and ask God to forgive and heal us of the wounds of sin.  In a particular way, our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation to provide that grace.

At the end of every sacramental confession, the priest says, “through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  These are some of the most beautiful words that a priest says in the course of his ministry. Sadly, our priests do not get to say these words enough. We are told that 75 percent of Catholics do not make Confession a part of the regular practice of their faith.  This is one reason that the Church in her wisdom celebrates the season of Lent – we need that reminder each year that one day we will be accountable for our sinful failings, yet God is loving and in his mercy is always ready to forgive, if only we come to him with contrition.

This Lent, as we have for decades, in collaboration more recently with the Diocese of Arlington, our archdiocese is making the Sacrament of Reconciliation more widely available. On Ash Wednesday, everyone who comes to begin Lent and marked with ashes will receive a card inviting them to come to be reconciled, to hear those beautiful words of forgiveness. The invitation, to be given to others, will also have our The Light is ON web address, at which people will find times for special Wednesday evening confessions, in addition to regular confession times on other days of the week at area parishes.

If it has been some time since you have been to Confession, you have nothing to lose except the heavy burdens you have been carrying.  If you already make Confession a regular practice and know how transforming it is, you can help others to receive the grace of God’s mercy by giving one of the invitations to them.  By sharing with them what it means to you, and perhaps inviting them to come with you next time you go, you will be an instrument of God’s love this Lent.

Joseph and His Brothers – Preparing the Way for Jesus Christ

February 27th, 2017

Joseph and His Brothers

It is the understanding of the Church that all of scripture speaks of Christ.  Reading the Old Testament, the Church has found hidden in the text prophecies and foreshadowings of what is fully revealed in the New Testament (Dei Verbum, 14-16).

In a particular way, the Church has illuminated the unity of scripture through typology, “which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (CCC 128).  Some of those in whom the Church Fathers have discerned a “type” of Jesus, that is, a Christ-like figure, are Adam in his original and intended holiness, the high priest Melchizedek, Moses, and Joseph, son of Jacob, who was given the name “Israel,” as well as figures of prophecy like the “suffering servant” proclaimed by Isaiah.

Of the twelve sons of Jacob, Joseph had a special place in his heart. Joseph was the first son born to Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, who died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. Centuries later, in the fullness of time and near the tomb where Rachel was buried, Jesus was born. Like Christ, Joseph was an innocent man made to suffer by his own people, sold for money, condemned, and counted among the dead, but God brought good out of evil and raised him to new life, and through Joseph’s suffering and his forgiving their betrayal, God’s people would be saved (Genesis 37:2-47:12).

Rachel’s first-born, Joseph, was Jacob’s greatly favored eleventh son.  His older brothers, born to other mothers, resented him. The jealous brothers conspired to kill Joseph, but instead sold him into slavery.  Later Joseph was unjustly condemned to prison when he was falsely accused of iniquity.  Meanwhile, the brothers devastated their father by telling him that Joseph was killed by a beast.

Throughout the wrongs done to Joseph, God was with him and showed him steadfast love.  After interpreting a dream Pharaoh had, Joseph was lifted out of prison to a high position under Pharaoh, where he prepared for and led Egypt out of a long famine by storing up plenty of grain.  Thus would Joseph be the salvation of God’s people Israel.

When his older brothers came to buy grain so the family would not starve, Joseph – whom they did not recognize – tested them, during which they repented of the evil done to him years before. Forgiving them, he revealed himself, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed,” he added, “for God sent me before you to preserve life.” When Jacob heard the news – that his son who was once dead was alive again – he rejoiced and, at Pharaoh’s invitation, the entire family came and settled in the land of Goshen, saved from famine and death.

The story of Joseph is prophetic of Jesus – and it teaches us also to trust in God and be forgiving like Joseph. In this way, we too participate in the Lord’s work of salvation.

This is the third post in a series on the Book of Genesis.

God’s Plan of Salvation as Revealed in the History of Genesis

February 24th, 2017
Abraham Serving the Three Angel by Rembrandt

Abraham Serving the Three Angel by Rembrandt

The Book of Genesis opens with the story of the origin and meaning of human life.  Then, after recounting how humanity willfully sinned, Genesis sets out the Lord’s blueprint for the reconciliation and salvation of fallen humanity. Under this plan, God would gradually reveal himself and, through a chosen people, progressively prepare mankind for Christ, his Gospel, and the Church, which are prefigured in this history.

The natural consequence of sin, of turning away from God who is the source of life, is death. Yet, when the scourge of sin had filled the earth and that death came, the righteous Noah and his family were saved in the ark, which in a sense signifies the Church, while the waters washed away the sin in the world, prefiguring baptism (Genesis 6:8-9:17; CCC 1094, 1219). Seen from this perspective, the story of the Flood is really one of God’s mercy. Although evil and sin may surround us, God’s faithful people in his ark, the Church, will be saved. With creation renewed, God then formed a special bond – a covenant – with Noah and his family and their descendants.

Generations later, the Lord chose the family of Abraham through which he would be made known to the world, which also anticipates the Church (CCC 762). The Lord made a great covenant with the patriarch and his descendants, binding himself to his people in a relationship of fidelity and care as a husband pledges fidelity to his wife and promising to make them a great nation in a land of plenty (Genesis 12:1-22:19, cf. Hosea 2:21-22). In this way, the heavenly kingdom is also foreshadowed. The sign of the covenant was marked in the flesh of Abraham and his male descendants, just as the sign of the New Covenant in the Holy Spirit is marked on our hearts.

This covenant was renewed with Isaac, who was born to the elderly Abraham and his wife Sarah after his birth was foretold by three visitors whom Abraham addressed as one, manifesting the Trinity.  When Abraham proved his total faith, offering to give everything to the Lord, even his beloved son Isaac, the Lord himself provided the sacrifice, just as God would provide his own Son Jesus as the sacrifice on Calvary.

God continued his covenant with Isaac’s son Jacob, whose twelve sons prefigure the twelve Apostles (Genesis 28:10-35:15). After depicting his initial character negatively, Genesis tells how Jacob wrestled with a mysterious stranger, later revealed to be the Lord, who gave him the name, “Israel.” Pope Benedict XVI interpreted this incident as “a long night of seeking God, of the struggle to learn his name and see his face.”

The covenant God made with the patriarchs and the divine plan of forming one people are not just the stuff of history, but a continuing and unfolding reality.  As God’s assurance of his never-failing love for his people, the covenant is fulfilled in Christ and through our baptism, we become heirs to the promise (cf. Galatians 3:26-29).

This is the second post in a series on the Book of Genesis.

The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter

February 22nd, 2017

St Peter's Basilica

The purpose of sacred art in any Catholic church is to teach us something about our faith and ultimately lead us to Jesus. In Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s soaring masterpiece at the Altar of the Chair shows what is traditionally presented as Saint Peter’s “cathedra,” which is Latin for “chair,” encased in gilded bronze and being lifted to heaven by four Fathers of the Church – Saints Ambrose and Augustine from the West and Saints John Chrysostom and Athanasius from the East.  At the top of the dramatic work, rays of light and angels swirling in clouds surround an alabaster window depicting a dove that symbolizes how Saint Peter and his successors are guided by the Holy Spirit in leading people to heaven.

This artwork, which is behind the papal high altar directly below which lie the bones of the fisherman, and the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter that we celebrate today both offer a reminder to all of us of how we are connected to the leader of the Apostles who was the first pope.  Today, he bears the name of Francis, the successor of Peter who like him and every pope since remains the touchstone of our faith and the “rock” upon which Jesus promised to build his Church.

From “cathedra” is derived the word “cathedral,” the place where sits the chair of a bishop as a successor of the Apostles.  The pope’s chair symbolizes his enduring teaching authority, just as the bishop’s chair does in every cathedral around the world, including the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, which is the mother church for the Archdiocese of Washington.  In explaining what the chair of Saint Peter and a bishop’s chair represents, Pope Benedict XVI said, “From this seat, as teacher and pastor, he will guide the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.”

Last year on this feast day during the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis urged pastors to make their own the words of Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) and to keep their thoughts fixed on Jesus, “the beginning and the end of all actions of the Church.” From this profession of faith, he added, each pastor takes up his charge to care for that portion of the flock entrusted to him.

The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, inspired by Bernini’s artistry, offers a reminder of that fisherman who dropped his nets to follow and walk with Jesus on a journey to heaven that the Successors of Peter, from Linus to Francis, have continued to lead us on for nearly two millennia.

The Definitive Blessing of Life in the Glory of Heaven

February 19th, 2017

Last Things - Heaven

What lies beyond death is shrouded in mystery, something that we cannot fully comprehend, but Jesus Christ offers us the Good News of heaven, of new and everlasting life even after our earthly bodies have died and our temporal existence has ended. Still, all human attempts to describe precisely what heaven is like will fail.

This much we can say with complete assurance – despite popular imagining, in heaven, we do not become angels and we do not spend our time playing harps on clouds. Nor is it just like this world lived in time, only forever, to be experienced as “an unending succession of days.” Most would agree that would be monotonous and even boring (Spe Salvi, 10, 12). Instead, God and heaven are in eternity, that is, they transcend the progression of time and are an ever-present reality where all is ever fresh and new.

In the Creed, we allude to the end, but we speak of it as a beginning, something we “look forward to.” While this earthly life is a great gift from God, we were made for something greater. God’s plan is that our old flesh be taken off and our bodies resurrected in Christ, to be given new glorified bodies fit for eternal life in heaven.

Scripture describes heaven “in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (CCC 1027). In the heavenly kingdom, “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (Revelation 21:4). Theologians have also traditionally spoken of “the beatific vision,” of the happiness of seeing the essence of God intuitively and face to face, rather than by faith (CCC 1028; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12, 1 John 3:2), but the blessings of heaven go beyond even this.

In its most fundamental sense, to be in heaven is to live in the fullness of the life of God and his infinite love and truth (CCC 1024-25), which we received as a seed in baptism. This blessed communion and resurrected eternal life with God and in God brings perfect peace and joy. It is like “the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality,” expressed Pope Benedict XVI. “It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time – the before and after – no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy” (Spe Salvi, 12).

God implores us to choose this life; he does not will for anyone the “second death” that is hell. God wants the entirety of his human creation to have eternal life with him in heaven and we have been given his Son Jesus, the Church and the sacraments to help us attain it. For our part, ultimately when we get right down to it, just as people have questions about the Last Things, God has one of his own for each of us. And here Blessed Mary is instructive. The Lord asks us a simple question which calls for a straight answer – Yes or no?

Do we want God in our life, yes or no? Realizing that there is no eternal life or heaven apart from the Lord, we answer by what we believe, profess and do. If one has fashioned a life of goodness and love fit for heaven as shown by their conduct here, if they have accepted and cooperated with God’s grace as best as they understood it – that is, if their answer is “yes” to God – we have his trustworthy promise of heaven.

Hopefully, by being mindful of the Last Things, we will make our life a “yes” to God and his love and truth. It is my hope too that this brief exploration of the Last Things in this blog series will inspire you to learn more about and prayerfully reflect upon these realities and then have discussions with others and continue to ask questions.

This is the sixth entry in a multi-part series on the Last Things.

The Mystery and Tragedy of Hell

February 17th, 2017
"Visit to hell" by Mexican artist Mauricio García Vega

“Visit to hell” by Mexican artist Mauricio García Vega

As much as we might prefer to deny it, hell is a reality (CCC 1034-35). But exactly what hell is like and how it is experienced is couched in imagery and mystery.

Scripture uses two very different pictures to describe hell – unquenchable fire, yet also cold darkness. Dante’s The Inferno depicts hell with various levels, with Satan at the center, frozen in ice. C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, envisions a gray town where residents increasingly turn inward as they move farther apart. In Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit, where the characters are forced to spend eternity together, “hell is other people.”

Far worse than these images is the reality of hell. Furthermore, contrary to wide belief, God does not send anyone to hell. No one who might be in hell is there because God willed it. Rather, people send themselves to hell by their own choice.

To begin to grasp it all, we must start with the understanding that heaven is eternal life with God who is Love and Truth and Life itself. It is precisely because God loves humanity that hell is even possible. Love by its very nature is voluntary – to be love it must be freely given and freely received.

God wants to share his love and life with all, but because he loves us and is Love, he does not compel anyone to love him back. Rather, we each have free choice of the will and God will respect our choices. We can choose to live in God’s love, grace and truth, or we can choose not to. God will not impose his love or salvation upon anyone and this cannot be said to be unjust. God will not force anyone to be united with him in heaven if they do not indicate they want a relationship with him in this life.

This is the essence of hell – definitive self-exclusion and eternal separation from God, and thus separation from love and from truth (CCC 1033-37) – and there could be no worse fate. Yet, if we always think about ourselves and choose to live our way rather than God’s way, believing that we do not want or need him, if we choose not to genuinely love God and our neighbor and live against truth and the Holy Spirit’s voice in our conscience, which is called “sin,” we injure our relationship with God (CCC 1849-50). Ultimately, one’s actions and choices might rupture entirely that relationship with the Lord who is Life, so that they are “doomed to die” if reconciliation with God is not sought before death. God will forgive any sin no matter how grievous if the person only turn to him, but this cannot happen if forgiveness is neither contritely sought nor accepted for whatever reason.

The mystery of hell remains disturbing. We have every good reason to dread the possibility that persons created for eternal life could shape their wills in a way as to be forever apart from God. We take consolation, however, in the recognition that Jesus died on the Cross to save us from such an end if we are willing before death to open our hearts to his love, grace and truth and set aside what would separate us from him.

This is the fifth entry in a multi-part series on the Last Things.

The Questions of Purgatory and Limbo

February 16th, 2017

Purgatory-LastThings

Any discussion on the Last Things – death, judgment, heaven and hell – is incomplete without taking up the matters of purgatory and “limbo.”

In the popular imagination, purgatory is thought of as a place not unlike a waiting room. In fact, purgatory is not so much a location as it is a temporary state of being or process.  Furthermore, while some have objected to the concept of purgatory, properly understood it should not be that controversial. Nor should it be feared. In fact, if one is “in” purgatory, they can rejoice because they are on their way to heaven (CCC 1030).

When someone dies in mortal sin, that is having deliberately acted in a way that now separates them from God, that separation continues after death, a state which is called hell.  Meanwhile, some people die burdened with lesser or venial sins, imperfections and failures which wound love and mar spiritual life.  But such persons are still in the friendship of God. Because heaven is a place of pure holiness, this impurity of sin must necessarily be removed from the soul to enter. Only if healed and purged of impurities can we enter into that life which is blessed communion with God, rejoicing in his infinite goodness.

This process of purification is called “purgatory,” in which we are transformed and purified in a way that may be experienced as suffering, but “it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God” (Spe Salvi, 47). This purification is entirely different from those in hell who suffer eternally the pained anguish of being separated from God and his love; it is not “hell-lite” (CCC 1031).

The Church’s teaching on purgatory finds a solid foundation in scripture, which also speaks of the practice of praying for the dead. In the Second Book of Maccabees, we encounter the tradition of praying for those who have died so that they might be cleansed of their sins. Since the communion of those in purgatory with the faithful on earth is not broken, when the last breath is taken, it is a “holy and pious thought” to pray for the departed “that they might be absolved from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:45-46).  This is the greatest charity we can do the deceased.

Quite different from the teaching of purgatory is the idea of “limbo,” which in the past was advanced by some to address questions about God’s mercy and justice toward unbaptized babies, understanding that the grace of baptism is necessary to remove the impediment of Original Sin.  Today, as noted in a 2007 report from the International Theological Commission, this theological hypothesis – which has never been doctrine – has largely been disfavored in favor of a greater prayerful hope of a way of salvation in the mercy of our Lord who desires that all should be saved (95-103).

This is the fourth entry in a multi-part series on the Last Things.

Judgment and Getting a Good Judgment

February 14th, 2017

Last-Judgement-Michelangelo

In Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, Jesus stands as the awesome central figure. This reminds us of the Gospel’s final rendering of justice depicting those who have been found worthy and those who have not (Matthew 25:31-46).

We know that two kinds of judgments will be rendered and we cannot help but ask how we might be judged. The short answer is that the Lord who extended us mercy from the Cross will simply reveal the truth about what we have made ourselves to be in our earthly life. At the point of death, our choices become final and we become the result of those decisions made of our own free will. All the illusions and falsehoods that we now clothe ourselves with are stripped away and we are seen in divine light.

First is the particular judgment where each is judged according to their free acceptance or rejection of the Gospel and God’s gifts, including the grace of baptism which heals the stain of Original Sin and by which we become God’s adopted children. Jesus will not judge how successful we were in business, how much wealth or power we acquired, or how popular we were. We will be judged on our love – of God and neighbor – and on whether we sought to live in goodness and truth (CCC 1021-22). Basically, Christ will determine whether we have shown that we want an eternal relationship with him or not. Those who genuinely do will have it in heaven. Those who do not, the Lord will respect their choice also – this is called hell. Since our will becomes fixed at death, there is no changing our minds and thus no changing the judgment after we have died. This should serve as a wake-up call for how we lead our lives here and now.

With respect to the “hard cases,” like those who die ignorant of Christ’s Gospel and unbaptized children, the Church entrusts to the mercy of God who desires that all should be saved (CCC 1260-61). Regarding those who in their final moments might commit what is objectively mortal sin, such as suicide, the Church also commends to the mercies of God, recognizing their subjective responsibility might be diminished by psychological disturbance or other factors, and that by ways known to him alone, God might provide an opportunity for repentance and salvation (CCC 2283).

At the end of time, Christ will return in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil and establishment of his kingdom, the dead will be raised up and there will be a general judgment. This will not simply be a repeat of all the particular judgments. Rather, in this Last Judgment, the Lord will bring all to completion. The old order will pass away and a new creation will be established. Those who have accepted God’s call will be granted incorruptible life to their bodies to live in Christ.

To this eternal life that we now understand so poorly, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let the hearer say, ‘Come.’ Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water” (Revelation 22:17).

This is the third entry in a multi-part series on the Last Things.

The Mystery of Death and the Blessing of Christian Hope

February 13th, 2017

Last Things

Eventually, bodies give out, all biological processes cease and then . . . utter and unsettling stillness of the flesh. Facing the reality of death is one of the hardest moments in life. When it arrives for someone we love, there is a host of emotions to work through; fear, sadness, despair, anger to name just a few.  Seeing the deceased lying in the casket at a wake, we might wonder as people have throughout the ages: What is death?  What happens when we die?  Will I see this person I love again?

Some have answered the question of death with emptiness, saying that death means “the end” and the person simply ceases to be.  Most cultures across history, however, have had a notion of the afterlife.  One tradition believes in incarnation, another views the afterlife in terms of worldly and sensual delights and material riches, while others believe in ascension to another plane to exist as disembodied pure thought and energy.

Christ’s answer to this question and death’s arrogant claim of finality – the Good News he offers the world if it will only accept it – is that death does not have the last word.  Jesus died too.  He truly died and his body laid in the coldness of the tomb.  But then he rose again, truly alive. Jesus returned victorious from the dead. His death was as real as our own will be.  But if we die with him, we will rise with him who is life itself.  If we die without him, however, we will remain in death eternally.

Jesus challenges us to believe that he is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and that he makes “all things new,” so that “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (Revelation 21:4-5).  Nowhere is this more beautifully said than in the Christian funeral liturgy where we are poignantly reminded, “Life is changed but not ended.  When the body of our earthly dwelling lied in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.”

Christian faith neither denies the profound reality of death nor yields to despair because of it.  Rather, it is more powerful than death.  Trusting in the Lord, a Christian mourns but faces death with confident hope, “by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in God’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1817). In this hope, we are already saved and in a sense already begin the new life.

Death brings us face to face with the last great experience in our earthly life.  No one escapes this inevitable reality.  Yet when our worldly flesh is dissolved in death, something of our very being most proper to us can still live.  This is the Good News of Christ.  Worldly death is not the evil which we should fear the most. Our life on this earth is not an end in itself – in fact this was never our final destination in God’s plan (cf. Hebrews 13:14) – but is a preparation for what is to come.

This is the second entry in a multi-part series on the Last Things.