In my recent post, The Final Call, I spoke about my recent heart attack and reflected on how we must be ready for our own final call and how I felt like Jesus had given me a second chance at life. Obviously, He has much more work to do on me before I am ready to face Him.
A few weeks have passed since the heart attack and that time has given me an opportunity to pray and contemplate any message or messages that may have been placed on my heart by the Holy Spirit.
Having recounted the story hundreds of times over the last few weeks for friends and family, one question has come up in the vast majority of conversations: Were you scared? That alone is an ominous question. Implicit in that question is the fear of death and judgement. I have thought about it over and over again, prayed about it and thought some more. Foolish as it may sound, I do not remember fearing death, even though I knew that death was a distinct possibility.
My prayer during the time of my heart attack was a simple request, “Lord, please do not let me drop dead in front of my wife and daughter.” I could not bear the thought of the trauma it might have caused both of them. Yet, I do not remember praying to live.
Over and over in my mind, perhaps as a moment of grace, I kept thinking of the many times I have read, “fear not” or “be not afraid” in the Bible. During that long hour or so, I prayed for the forgiveness of my sins, asked Jesus for mercy and asked His Blessed Mother to accompany me. With that came a sense of peace, even over the intense pain, and in some moments, joy at the thought that I might be going to meet Jesus face to face.
I am quite sure there would have been much fear and trembling at my judgement, but I have known Christ’s mercy so many times in my life that I didn’t feel fear during the time of my heart attack, just an impression of His love. Fortunately, I also had the sense of mind or perhaps the grace to lay my soul before Jesus and trust in Him. A leap of faith.
The Church teaches us about this death and judgement as two of the last four things we will face. Immediately followed by Heaven or Hell. That said, She also teaches us about Christ’s Mercy.
A few years back, I was asked to do a talk about Mercy and Hope. As a part of the research for that talk, I did a word/phrase search in the Douay-Rheims Bible for the phrases: fear not, be not afraid or do not fear. The result found those phrases mentioned over 650 times second only to phrases mentioning peace 682 times. Between both, we are told 1232 times not to have fear or to be at peace.
In section 1847 of the Catholic Catechism teaches us about Christ’s mercy and states:
God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.” To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Mercy comes not in our denial of faults, sins, but in admitting them and asking Christ for forgiveness, in the confessional if at all possible.
When we face death the evil one will taunt us with all our faults. The evil one wants our souls, he hates us, he wants us to despair because of our sinfulness. Do not fear, the Blessed Mother has crushed the head of the serpent while Christ calls us to His love and mercy for the forgiveness of sins.
In The Diary of St. Faustina, she quotes a message from Christ to us all, it states:
“Come to Me, all of you!”
“Oh soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy.”
Christ’s message of mercy is moving beyond human comprehension. How can we not find joy in His mercy?
In summary, rejoice in the mercy of Christ. Turn to Him in the sacraments, especially in the confessional and in Divine union with Him in the Holy Eucharist.
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,