A few weeks ago, my home church parish remembered the men and women of our faith community who passed away this year. As I perused the list of names in our bulletin, four were elderly people who had consistently attended weekly Bible studies I served for six years. 

A sense of loss moved me to think, “When did we last talk? What did we say? Did they know how much inspiration they shared? Did they know how much they were loved?” 

But then the Lord reminded me how passionate they were about learning the word of God through Scripture study and how we always said, “The more we grow in wisdom of Scripture, the more we come to know Jesus. Hence, the more we will come to know God.” 

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

My sadness was filled with hope as I recalled their radiant joy after each lesson, as well as the community impact of their experience. They are a witness of what it means to be, forever, a “child of the light of God.” 

The month of November is dedicated to the souls in purgatory, as the liturgical calendar approaches the end. We celebrate the 32nd and 33rd Sundays in Ordinary Time during the next two weeks, focusing on the importance of being prepared for eternal life, for what we do today will ready us for tomorrow. 

Wisdom 

The Book of Wisdom summons us to seek her with great desire. Wisdom, manifested in the feminine is, in turn, ready to provide all that is patiently sought, hence, “wisdom is the perfection of prudence” (Wis 6:15). We are called to keep watch for the wisdom of God. It is sort of a vigil, a waiting in anticipation of what is to come. Wisdom provides hope, enlightenment and awareness.  

Upon baptism, we are permeated with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is a spiritual gift which enables one to know the purpose and plan of God. What is the purpose and plan of God? Is this the wisdom we seek?  

Wisdom in Christ’s death and resurrection  

As I write, a staff member just walked in my office saying her grandfather just passed away. The family has kept vigil at his side for weeks, witnessed the last rites and were present as he took his last breath on earth. Life is changed.  

Chapter Four of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians gives insightful hope in our life with Christ after we die. He explains that we who grieve do so in anticipation of the day when Jesus, who died and rose, will come again in glory. We will miss those who die yet have hope in life that is to come. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thes 4:14).  

We also read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven. We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death the righteous will live forever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day. Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the most Holy Trinity: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Catechism 989).  

Be ready for Christ  

We are to be ready for when this day arrives. To prepare for this moment we live not in fear but as a child of the light. We become a child of light the moment the waters of baptism wash over our heads, an immersion of water and Spirit, grace upon grace. Here our journey to heaven begins.  

Equipped  

Equipped by our baptism, we walk as children of the light with the “talents” God provides to each individual for the good of others. These gifts are not to be buried, but rather multiplied for the glory of God. Along the path to heaven, Jesus fortifies our body and soul with his own. The real presence of Christ in the holy Eucharist nourishes and strengthens us for the journey to eternity. Without his body we are malnourished. With his body we thrive in God’s glory and at the end of our life on earth we are redeemed. “The Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the church can have in her journey through history” (Pope St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #9).  

Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The eucharistic sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of Jesus’ passion and death, but also the mystery of the resurrection which crowned his sacrifice. It is as the living and risen one that Christ can become in the Eucharist the “bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 48), the “living bread.” It is this living bread that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living father sent me and I have life because of the father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:56-58). Here is our hope in eternal life.  

Highway to heaven  

Blessed Carlos Acutis, beatified on Oct. 10, wrote “The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven. The Eucharist is the highway to heaven.”  

Simply stated by a 15-year old, computer-savvy youth who entered eternal life in 2006 and is on the path to canonization, Eucharist is a perfect path to holiness. Hence, participating in the celebration of the Mass is to be our main priority each week, and if possible, each day. As a result, we will grow in love of God and neighbor and be prepared for eternal life.  

Many are absent from Mass for an array of reasons. I invite you to come home. Place aside earthly distractions, frustrations, limitations and misunderstandings. Focus on who is most central: Jesus Christ, our source and summit, our life, our mercy, our healer, our comforter, our redeemer. 

From the first flicker of our baptismal candle our “lamps” are lit and filled with oil. We are clothed in white, as we put on Christ. Water cleanses away the stain of original sin and seals us with the blessed Trinity. Upon our death the same will happen: the paschal candle will pour forth the light of Christ, a white pall is placed over the casket and the waters of baptism are sprinkled over our remains, as our families and community of believers witness to our life as a child of the light. Will we be ready for this transformation? Are we doing today what will prepare us for eternity? How is God inviting us to grow as a child of his light? Am I ready to walk with the bridegroom to the heavenly banquet and, for eternity, be a child of his light?  

Soul of Christ, sanctify me; Body of Christ, save me; Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from Christ’s side, wash me; Passion of Christ, strengthen me; O good Jesus, hear me; Within Thy wounds hide me; Suffer me not to be separated from Thee; From the malicious enemy defend me; In the hour of my death call me and bid me come unto Thee that I may praise Thee with Thy saints and with Thy angels Forever and ever Amen (Anima Christi Prayer, 14th Century)  

 

Dow is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.