by BCBP Editor

Fr Francis Gustilo encourages us to reflect on November (and December) as a time for spiritual growth, a sort of annual check-up.
November, the last month of the Church’s calendar year, is a most propitious time for spiritual growth. It is a time of reckoning, a season of self-evaluation, a whole month to have an “annual check-up” of our spiritual condition.

The Church asks us to remember [“maala-ala”] our deceased loved ones but at the same time, she reminds [“paala-ala”] that we are moving in the same direction that our l
oved ones have gone – heavenwards.

For this reason, the Church invites us to consider FOUR LAST THINGS – they call it in Latin as “Novissima” – namely, Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.

In our Christian faith, DEATH is no longer to be dreaded like before. Because of Christ’s own death and, above all, because of his resurrection, death has no more sting [as St Paul puts it]. Whereas before the saving acts of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, death had the feature of God’s punishment due to our sins, now in Christ’s goodness and mercy, death is but a passage from this life to the next [life]. It is but a twinkling of an eye as in our Tagalog lingo “sumakabilang buhay”. However, that death may indeed be effectively without sting, we need to BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST which entails not just head-knowledge but life-style!!! Our life must be a constant dying to our selfish selves so that others may rise from their own struggles and trials through our self-sacrificing acts of love [check out what the scribe, and which Jesus “subscribed”, commented re Jesus’ response to his query in last Sunday’s gospel].

Because of our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, JUDGMENT of God at the end of our earthly life is also no longer to be dreaded. In Jesus we realize that “God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” and for this matter, He always will always want to give us a merciful judgment. I am quite certain that, in God’s magnanimity of love, He would call us back to Him in a time that it would be most easy on our part to believe in His love and say Yes to His invitation.

Nevertheless, He will never impose this great desire of His on us. For this reason, the Church asks us to consider the two other important realities: HEAVEN and HELL.

Once again, how do we effectively receive God’s merciful judgment upon us? Here’s my answer.

Check out Jesus’ parable [Luke 15] on the Merciful Father and his Prodigal Son. When the younger son came home after years of sinfulness – separation from his father, brother and home – the Father rushes to his side, embraces him, restores him his dignity as his son and celebrates his new-found life. Yet when the older son would not enter the home after a whole day’s labor in the field, deciding to have nothing to do with the celebration his father had put up for his brother, the father meets him outside, pleads to him and gives good reason why he did what he did – celebrate because his brothers was lost but now is found, once dead but now alive.

Now the parable ends here. Some would ask: “how did the parable really end, that is, did the older son come in and join the celebration?” I would venture to tell you that that question is something you should as Jesus when you meet him in paradise!!!

But, no. I think we already have an answer to that end-of-the-story query. The answers lies within you. You and I consider ourselves in the shoes of the elder son/brother. If, alas, on the day our reckoning, we see our “prodigal brother” with God in the festive atmosphere of Paradise – “someone we found so difficult to forgive in our lifetime [as the elder son found it in the parable]”, will we enter Paradise and join in the Father’s celebration of mercy and new-found life?

If we have the same MERCIFUL attitude of the Father here in this life, we shall say YES to the invitation of the Father to join Him and all his sons and daughters in the celebration of life and love. That would be HEAVENly.

But if we remain in the VINDICTIVE judgment of the elder son [unless he changed his attitude], we shall NOT ENTER and JOIN IN such celebration. That would really be HELLish.

So, this November, REMEMBER [our beloved deceased] but also BE REMINDED [of our four Last Things].

May God’s Kingdom reign!

Discussion Starters

What touched you in this reflection on The Four Last Things? Why?

How can you use this reflection to enhance your spiritual growth and end-of-the-year checkup?

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1 comment

german m. balot November 6, 2012 - 1:30 pm

I was touched by the loving forgiveness of the father in contrast to the vindictiveness of the elder brother. in my case i’m still lucky that there is still time and chance to be like the father in the parable. please pray for me that our Heavenly Father pour out His grace on me that i maybe able to follow the attitude of the father in the parable.


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