Monsignor Yennock on Death and After Death - Homily from November 13, 2016

Nov 14, 2016

DEATH AND AFTER DEATH 2016—33RD SUNDAY NOV. 13

TODAY WE CONTINUE OUR REFLECTION ON THE FOUR LAST THINGS: DEATH, JUDGEMENT, HEAVEN, AND HELL.

ONE REASON WHY FORREST GUMP WAS SO APPEALING TO ALMOST EVERYBODY IS BECAUSE HE SAID PROFOUND TRUTHS IN A SIMPLE AND UNASSUMING WAY. HERE’S WHAT HE SAID ABOUT DEATH: “MAMA ALWAYS SAID DYING WAS A PART OF LIFE.”

THAT’S NOT A NEW THOUGHT BUT IT IS PROFOUNDLY IMPORTANT BECAUSE WE ALL HAVE TO DIE. NO EXCEPTIONS.

STEVE JOBS THE CEO OF APPLE WAS GIVING A COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO.

THIS IS WHAT HE TOLD THE GRADUATES: “NO ONE WANTS TO DIE. EVEN PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN DON'T WANT TO DIE TO GET THERE. AND YET DEATH IS THE DESTINATION WE ALL SHARE. NO ONE HAS EVER ESCAPED IT.” THEN HE SAID:

“THAT IS AS IT SHOULD BE, BECAUSE DEATH IS VERY LIKELY THE SINGLE BEST INVENTION OF LIFE. IT IS LIFE'S CHANGE AGENT. IT CLEARS OUT THE OLD TO MAKE WAY FOR THE NEW. RIGHT NOW THE NEW IS YOU, BUT SOMEDAY NOT TOO LONG FROM NOW, YOU WILL GRADUALLY BECOME THE OLD AND BE CLEARED AWAY. SORRY TO BE SO DRAMATIC, BUT IT IS QUITE TRUE.”

SOME OF THE STUDENTS MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT THAT HE WAS BEING MORBID. BUT ACTUALLY, HE WAS DOING THEM A FAVOR. HE WAS ALLOWING THEM TO REFLECT ON THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN THEIR LIVES NEXT TO BIRTH, THEIR DEATH.

A WELL KNOWN AUTHOR SAID: “FACING DEATH IS THE ULTIMATE TEST OF CHARACTER. I DON'T WANT TO DIE, BUT IF I HAVE TO - I'D LIKE TO DO IT WITH A LITTLE PRIDE.”

I HEARD A STORY OF A MAN WHO MANY YEARS AGO DECIDED TO LEAVE THE CHURCH AND EVERYTHING IT REPRESENTED. HE SAID HE WAS LEAVING THE CHURCH SO THAT HE WOULD BE FREE.HE DECIDED THAT NO ONE WAS GOING TO TELL HIM WHAT TO DO, HOW TO CHOOSE WHAT IS RIGHT AND WRONG. HE WOULD DECIDE FOR HIMSELF AND DO WHAT HE WANTED TO DO.

THE PITY IS THAT HE CHOSE TO RAISE HIS CHILDREN WITH THE SAME ATTITUDE—NO RELIGION—NO RULES—NO MENTION OF CONSEQUENCES. AFTER ALL IF THERE IS NO GOD WHO ARE WE ACCOUNTABLE TO?

THIS IS THE STORY OF A MAN WHO ABOUT FORTY YEARS LATER FOUND HIMSELF POINTING A LOADED GUN TO HIS HEAD. HIS LIFE HAD BECOME SO EMPTY AND MEANINGLESS THAT HE WAS SIMPLY GOING TO END IT. WELL, AS IT HAPPENED HE DIDN’T END HIS LIFE THAT DAY. INSTEAD, HE SOUGHT PROFESSIONAL HELP.

HIS PSYCHIATRIST MADE THE SUGGESTION THAT HE REVERSE HIS LIFE  AND DELIBERATELY CHOOSE THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT HE HAD CHOSEN IN THE PAST. THE PSYCHIATRIST SAID TO HIM: “WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS POINT OF HOPELESSNESS THAT YOU WANT TO END YOUR LIFE? WAS IT NOT YOUR ATTITUDE AND EVERYTHING YOU HAVE CHOSEN UP TO NOW? THEN REVERSE IT.

THE MAN REALIZED THAT THIS WOULD MEAN RETURNING TO GOD, TO THE SACRAMENTS, AND ALLOWING THE CHURCH TO GUIDE HIS MORAL AND SPIRITUAL LIFE. SO HE WENT TO A CHURCH ONE SUNDAY AND LISTENED. HE EXPERIENCED GOD AS HE NEVER EXPERIENCED HIM BEFORE. HE HAD A PROFOUND CONVERSION.

THIS MAN NOW SPEAKS OF THE OVERWHELMING JOY IN HIS LIFE, A JOY THAT INCREASES WITH EVERY PASSING DAY. HE ALSO SPEAKS OF THE OVERWHELMING SORROW THAT ALSO INCREASES WITH EVERY PASSING DAY. THE SORROW AND SADNESS COME WHEN HE REALIZES HOW HE RUINED THE LIVES OF HIS CHILDREN. HE RAISED THEM IN A PERMISSISIVE HOUSEHOLD RUN BY A PRACTICAL ATHEIST—NO GOD, NO WORSHIP, NO STANDARDS NO GOAL.

THIS MAN’S LIFE HAD BEEN SO EMPTY AND MEANINGLESS THAT HE WANTED TO END IT. HE HAD TO COME FACE TO FACE WITH DEATH BEFORE HE REALIZED THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING MORE THAN THIS MATERIAL WORLD. SUDDENLY HE REALIZED THAT HE WAS MORE THAN FLESH AND BLOOD.  

A FRENCH POET SAID: “THEY TELL ME THAT I WAS BORN OF MAN AND WOMAN. THAT ASTONISHES ME. I THOUGHT THAT I WAS SOMETHNG MORE”. WHAT IS THAT SOMETHING MORE? IT IS THE SPIRIT IN YOU THAT LIVES ON LONG AFTER YOUR BODY RETURNS TO DUST. THE DESTINATION OF THAT SPIRIT IS HEAVEN OR HELL DEPENDING ON THE WAY YOU HAVE LIVED YOUR LIFE ON EARTH.

AS A PRIEST IT HAS BEEN MY PRIVILEGE TO ACCOMPANY MANY SOULS ON THEIR FINAL JOURNEY AS THEY PREPARE FOR DEATH.

WHEN I WALK THE HALLS OF NURSING HOMES I SEE MEN AND WOMEN WHO RAISED FAMILIES; WERE CEOS OF BIG CORPORATIONS; SERVED IN PUBLIC OFFICE; FOUGHT WARS; TAUGHT IN OUR SCHOOLS; WERE FINE MUSICIANS OR ARTISTS AND COMMANDED RESPECT IN THEIR WORKPLACE.

I AM ASTONISHED THAT SOME OF THESE HAVE BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN.

SOME CAN NO LONGER WALK; SOME NEED TO BE FED; SOME CRY AND NEED CONSOLATION; SOME HOLD DOLLS; MANY WEAR DIAPERS; SOME CAN NO LONGER TALK; AND MANY NEED CONSTANT CARE.

THE WORLD SAYS:"AH, HOW TRAGIC." AND FROM THE VANTAGE POINT OF THE WORLD IT IS TRAGIC. BUT FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF HEAVEN, IN SOME MYSTERIOUS WAY, THERE MAY ACTUALLY BE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IN THIS PROCESS.

JESUS SAID: "UNLESS YOU CHANGE AND BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN YOU WILL NEVER ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN". (MATT 18:3).

SOME OF THE PEOPLE IN NURSING HOMES ARE BECOMING LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN. A KIND OF INNOCENCE IS BEING RESTORED. WITHOUT THAT INNOCENCE THEY MIGHT NEVER HAVE MADE IT TO HEAVEN. NO ONE CAN CHALLENGE THEIR STATUS AS LITTLE CHILDREN. MAYBE THEY HAVE BECOME HUMBLE ENOUGH TO ENTER HEAVEN.

THIS LINE OF THINKING MAY SOUND STRANGE TO YOU, BUT IN THE UGLY PROCESS OF DYING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL MIGHT BE TAKING PLACE. IN SOME MYSTERIOUS WAY THE CROSS MIGHT BE LEADING THEM TO RESURRECTION AND NEW LIFE IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

LITTLE BY LITTLE GOD PURGES US OF EARTHLY DESIRES. LITTLE BY LITTLE WE GIVE BACK TO GOD OUR WEALTH, OUR HEALTH AND MANY OF OUR LOVED ONES. FINALLY WE ARE LED TO GIVE EVERYTHING BACK, EVEN OUR LIFE.

DURING MY LIFE I ASK MYSELF MANY QUESTIONS: DID I CLOSE THE GARAGE DOOR? DID I LOCK THE FRONT DOOR? DID I PUT THE CAT OUT?  WHERE IS MY PHONE? WHERE DID I PUT MY CHECK BOOK? WHERE IS MY CREDIT CARD?  ON MY DEATHBED I WILL HAVE ONLY ONE QUESTION FOR MYSELF:  IS MY SOUL READY TO MEET GOD. ALL OTHER CONCERNS WILL BE OF NO IMPORTANCE.

 

WHILE HE WAS DYING OF  PANCREATIC CANCER STEVE JOBS SAID:  “AT THIS MOMENT, LYING ON THE SICK BED AND RECALLING MY WHOLE LIFE, I REALIZE THAT ALL THE RECOGNITION AND WEALTH THAT I TOOK SO MUCH PRIDE IN, HAVE PALED AND BECOME MEANINGLESS IN THE FACE OF IMPENDING DEATH.” 

DEATH IS AN AMAZING PHENOMENON. WE ARE BOTH HORRIFIED AND FASCINATED BY IT. EACH DEATH EXPERIENCE—EACH DEATH TRIP IS COMPLETELY UNIQUE. SOME FACE IT WITH PEACE. OTHERS FACE IT WITH FEAR.

 

JESUS SAID: “DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THOSE WHO KILL THE BODY BUT CANNOT KILL THE SOUL. RATHER, BE AFRAID OF THE ONE WHO CAN DESTROY BOTH SOUL AND BODY IN HELL.” (Lk. 12:14)

 

JESUS ALSO SAID: “BE PREPARED FOR YOU KNOW NOT THE DAY NOR THE HOUR OF THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN.”

 

FOR MANY PEOPLE DEATH HAPPENS WITHOUT WARNING.  SOME PREPARE FOR DEATH AS THEY PREPARE FOR EVERYTHING ELSE. SOME DO NOT PREPARE. THEY JUST LET IT HAPPEN.  WE HAVE A CHOICE.  CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES. HOW WE DO OUR DEATH HAS A CONSEQUENCE IN THIS WORLD AND IN THE NEXT.

 

IF YOU WERE TO DIE TOMORROW, WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO LOOK GOD IN THE FACE AND SAY: I’M READY LORD? I HAVE DONE EVERYTHING THAT I SHOULD. WILL YOU TAKE ME INTO THE KINGDOM NOW, JUST AS I AM?