The end is nigh?

Dante Alighieri wrote "The Divine Comedy" in the early decades of the 14th century. Nearly 700 years later, this epic poem remains one of the great achievements of human literature. As art, Dante's use of language is supremely beautiful. But as a deeply Catholic work, it also offers an unforgettable portrait of the afterlife, following the author as he journeys through hell (Inferno), purgatory (Purgatorio) and finally heaven (Paradiso).
As we continue along the last week of the liturgical year, the readings continue to remind us that we are to 'be ready, for we do not know the hour when the Lord will come'. Today's readings are a stark reminder that everything will pass. Worldwide, 10 per cent believe the Mayan calendar on December 21 signifies the Apocalypse will happen in 2012, according to a new poll. The interesting thing is that the majority think it will end through the hands of God compared to those who think it will come about through a natural disaster or a political event which will provoke a nuclear war.Hollywood gets great mileage (and dollars!) out of creating movies that 'predict' the last days and the quest for survival of the strongest who can live in the Armageddon-like circumstances which the Apocalypse will inflict upon us all. A huge element however is left out of the equation- our lives are not in our hands.

At the moment, here in Deschatelets, many of us are living in the 'what comes after' and that sense that our lives are not our own! We began our Christmas exams today and for the next ten days or so, we live with our energy and minds projected towards the next exam, then the next until we reach the last one which will signal the beginning of Christmas holidays. For our 3rd year companions, it heralds the close of one chapter as they sit their Comprehensive exams on the 12th/13th of December and then head home, back to their communities and parishes to put the skills and knowledge of the past 3 yrs to good use.

Unlike the dates of exams, we do not know the hour when the Lord will come and maybe that is what scares us. We are not in control of when our earthly life will draw its last breath, though often we think we are! Standing before such a reality, we are weak and vulnerable and thus it is easy to become wound up in the 'what-if's' of all those predict the Last Days. God does not scare us into following Him or carrying out the commandments which He left us through His Son. However, on the Last Day, we will be held accountable for the choices which we made, our actions or lack of action, our words and our silence. We are reminded that Christianity is not just a feel good, let’s sit around and be happy faith. As we profess when we recite the Creed, “Christ will come to judge the living and the dead.” None of us are perfect but there is hope for each one of us, through the love and mercy of God. We just have to choose Him and realise that we are not the authors of our lives but the stewards of a great gift.

As the Church year closes and we look toward a new beginning in Advent, Catholics traditionally set aside November to pray for the dead and to reflect on the direction of our own lives. All of us will face the "Four Last Things" — death, judgment, hell or heaven — because all of us will die, and so too will every person we love. Most of us will face them sooner than we'd like. But thinking about our mortality is not "morbid." It's thoroughly realistic and Christian, because our final home is not in this world. 


The irony of Dante's "The Divine Comedy" is that we often remember it most vividly for its portrait of eternal loss, when in fact it is the tribute paid by one of humanity's greatest creative minds to God's glory, beauty, justice, mercy and, above all, love. That fatherly love, God's love, is meant eternally for each of us. Reflecting on our death and judgment this November, and allowing God to lead us to repentance and the sacrament of reconciliation — this is the only roadmap to eternity that matters, and the one that most surely leads home to heaven. 
The question remains though, if the Lord were to call you home to Him today, would He find you ready?

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