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A Program of Spiritual Formation for Candidates to the Priesthood

The Lay Monastic Community of Caryana
 
 
 

 

 


DEATH




 

THE ART OF DYING WELL

 

LESSONS FROM THE GOSPEL

 

We have seen that to die well we must live well. And living well consists in living lives with faith, hope and charity. Christ repeats this theme better in three Gospel lessons.

 

To die well, Christ said: "Let your loins be girded about and your lamps burning in your hands, and you yourselves, like men waiting for their master's return from the wedding; so that when he comes and knocks, they may straightway open to Him. Blessed are those servants whom the master, on his return, shall find watching." (Lk. 12:35-37)

 

"The Lord's coming" can refer either to the second coming or to our own death. But when Christ describes it as "a thief coming in the night," then He refers to our own death because the second coming is not "a thief in the night." It is a grandiose arrival with many great signs before it.

 

There are three commands in the above Gospel text: firstly, we must have our loins girded. Secondly, that we have lamps burning in our hands. And finally, that we keep watch and await His coming.

 

What does it mean to gird one's  loins? St. Peter speaks about ". . .girding the loins of your understanding," and St. Paul about ". . .girding your loins with truth." It means learning and understanding the teachings of Christ always. Death must find you learning all the commands of Christ.

 

Putting it another way, death must not find us occupied with the concerns of this life, even the most necessary. Martha was chided by Christ because of her concern in doing good to Him. How much more if your concerns are to amass superfluous riches, useless honors and the fulfilling of harmful desires.

 

Secondly, "and let your lamps be burning." It is obedience to the things you have learned that gives light to your eyes. There are many who know the commands of Christ but commit so many disobediences; they have lamps but do not carry them in their hands. Many learned men commit very grave sins because they do not consult the law of Christ. 

 

If King David, when he saw Bathsheba, consulted the law of God, he would never have fallen. But because he consulted the beauty of a woman, he, a wise, just and holy king, committed adultery.

 

Indeed, you must have your lamps lighted, but not hidden in your room. It must be in your hands, i.e. you have to obey those commands. He who always has the lamp of the Lord's commands before the eyes of his mind runs with confidence to meet his Lord.

 

The third and final duty of the faithful servant is to always be on watch. . .as he is uncertain when the Lord will come. "Blessed are those servants whom the master. . .shall find watching."

 

To be watchful means to diligently examine your conscience, to uncover what you did, said, desired and thought of at night or day, to find any stain of sin in them and to see that there is no delay in seeking the remedy of true repentance. You should ask God for the gift of contrition, ponder the gravity of your sin and heartily detest them. Remember that through sin, you offend not men but God.

 

With this exercise, it will almost be impossible to sin while dying or to die while sinning or to be caught off-guard by death. Death, therefore, with its uncertainty, can never harm us.

 

 

St. Robert Bellarmine, Book 1, Chapter 4

 

 

 

 

 

(06-09-03)

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