'Now and at the hour of our death.' Sunday Reflections, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

St Francis and Brother Leo Meditating on Death
El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, SouthAfrica)

Gospel Luke 12:32-48 [or 35-40] (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
Luke 12: 35-40
Jesus said to his disciples:
 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’


Luke 12:35-40 in Filipino Sign Language


On the evening of 24 July I got word that my oldest friend, Philip O'Brien, had been admitted to the Palliative Care of Our Lady's Hospicein Harold’s Cross, Dublin and that he wanted to see me. When I went the following day the first thing he asked of me was to give him the Last Rites. I was prepared for this and celebrated the sacrament of confession and the sacrament of the sick with a dear friend with whom I had started off in school at the age of four in 1947. Philip specifically referred to the sacrament of the sick by its old name, ‘Extreme Unction’, the final anointing. He was well aware that in his situation that that is what it was. When we were finished Philip, who rarely spoke about his faith, said to me, ‘I have always trusted in Jesus. May he trust in me now.’

Philip’s final illness had come as a shock to his family and to his friends. His wife Barbara - I had officiated at their wedding in 1968 - and their three sons Ciaran, Rory and Alan were fully aware of the situation and prepared for the end. Most importantly, Philip was prepared, filled with the hope that our faith in the Risen Lord Jesus gives us. He died peacefully two days after I had anointed him and I celebrated his funeral Mass on 1 August.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that day was not a celebration of Philip’s life but a celebration of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus in which we commended Philip’s soul to the mercy of God.

I think that the words of Pope Benedict from his encyclical Spe Salvi[acti sumus—in hope we were saved], No 47,  and quoted in the homily, touched the hearts of those present and reminded us that our death is not the end but, in God's plan when we cooperate with it, is the beginning of eternal life.

The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?

. . . We should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another . . . The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too.

There are a number of prayers in the Irish language for a happy death. Here is one: 


Glór na n-aingeal ós mo chionn,
ola Chríosta ar mo chorp,
Dia go raibh romham agus liom.
Is duitse, a Chríosta, m’anam bocht.

The voice of the angels over me,
the anointing of Christ on my body,
may God be before me and with me.
And my poor soul is yours, O Christ.

A Naomh-Mhuire, a Mháthair Dé, guigh orainn na peacaigh, anois agus ar uair ár mbáis. Amen. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

No Man is an Island by John Donne

Pope Benedict quotes from this poem in Spe Salvi.

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