Die In The Lord

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Christians live in  Christ. It is natural  that they should   also die in Christ  at the appointed  time. What does  dying in Christ mean? It refers to the death of a person  who, having  reconciled  himself with God, crosses the  threshold of  eternity  with  the  firm hope that   the doors of heaven are  kept open for him. We call such a person  blessed and his death a happy death. When the Scripture  says that the death of  His saints is precious to  God, it is about the  death of  such people.  It is the  reason for  the warning that  nobody  should be  called blessed, till the  time of  his death.

If you ask about the   greatest  blessing  one can get in this  world, it is  nothing but a  happy death. We do not know the  moment when   God recalls the soul which He has placed  in us. So the Bible  reminds us to be  vigilant at all times.

We honor St Joseph as the  patron of a happy death, the reason being that  he  was  blessed to  have a  happy death.  Today we are looking into  a particular aspect   of the  life of  Joseph  to find out what  made  him entitled  for the  greatest  blessing of his life. It is not  out of place to think about  the concept of  happy death in relation to St Joseph at the  fag end of an year that is   specially dedicated to  him as protector of the  Church.

We know that  death is the end of  a period  and  beginning of another in the  continuum called life. What  makes death  important is that  at that moment there exist  two  mutually exclusive possibilities. That of  passing  this   threshold  with  the hope of  entering eternal life or  leaving this  world in despair  in the  knowledge that   one is going to  eternal perdition.  It is like the  case of a tree  falling to the side towards which it was  leaning till then.  It is  the law of nature.  A tree can never   fall on the other side. Only way to overcome this  natural law is to  bind the  tree with a strong  rope to another tree or   structure on the  other side before  placing the axe at its root. In this way  we  can make it  fall to a  different direction than  where it should have fallen naturally.

In the same way, men also get a  death   appropriate to the  way he spent his life.  Those  who  lived a virtuous life  will die  in virtue. On the other hand,  those who  lived in  sin  will die in their sin. But  there is an exception to  this general rule.  Those who bind themselves  to  Jesus Christ, the  solid rock  of salvation, with the  rope of  Divine Grace  will die in Christ.  Saints ensured a  happy  ending  to their  life innings in this way  by tying them firmly  to Christ, their refuge and fortress. They never allowed  themselves to be  detached from  the Lord during their life. Even when  they failed or fell, they bounced back with added vigor. For them  death was  just another  step in their  journey towards meeting their  Lord. They did not fear condemnation  as they lived and  died in Christ. Paul the Apostle  writes  in his  letter to the Romans ;  ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are  in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). The purpose of  our catechism and  all our  pious exercises is to  encourage us to emulate those  saints so that we too  enter into a  personal relation with  Jesus Christ that extends to eternity.

Before  coming to Joseph and the way  he procured   a happy death, let me tell you something about  Don Bosco. We know about the  famous vision of   Don Bosco in which he saw the  Church as a great ship under  attack from a flotilla of  enemy vessels.  The Pope who was  steering Peter’s bark  moors it to   two  columns, the  first  being one  surmounted by  a Monstrance  with the Holy Eucharist  exposed within it  and the   other  being  surmounted by  a statue of the Blessed Virgin. The enemies failed to strike the  bark anymore because  it was  safely  moored between  the Blessed  Sacrament and  Blessed Virgin.

Even today, the Church has only  one enemy. It is none other than that ‘ancient serpent,who is Devil and Satan’.  He is the sole enemy of humankind  too. His attempts to strike and destroy our bark sailing  peacefully towards our heavenly destination, and  sink us into the  bottomless pit will continue till the  last moment of our  life on earth.  To escape  from his snares  unscathed and  present ourselves before the  Son of Man with a pure heart  and pleasant face  requires  enormous spiritual strength culminating in a happy death.  Many saints  have written that Satan will attack the dying with all the  weapons in his quiver  in a last-ditch effort to   capture his soul.

 If  the twin devotions to the Blessed Sacrament and  the Blessed Virgin  were the  prescriptions for the Church’s triumph over evil, we too should  make use of them in our ultimate spiritual battle. Now think of Joseph, who  was blessed to have Jesus who himself is the Blessed Sacrament and  Mary the Blessed Virgin at his side when his journey was  about to  end.  What a beautiful death should it be when Jesus and Mary are  by our bedside at the hour of our death! It is not possible to find a better  person than Joseph to be the patron  of the dying because  he was  blessed with the happiest of  deaths  among mortals.

Should we  emphasize more  the need to consecrate each of us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin.   Let us  live a life  devoted to the  Blessed Sacrament  receiving the   heavenly bread everyday and  seek the help of  Mary, Help of Christians  through  our daily Rosary and  in this way  earn the  grace to approach  the gates of eternity  with peace and hope. 

Let us pray:

O merciful Jesus, stretched on the cross, be mindful of the hour of our death. O most merciful Heart of Jesus, opened with a lance, shelter me at the last moment of my life. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of unfathomable mercy for me at the hour of my death, O dying Jesus, Hostage of mercy, avert the Divine wrath at the hour of my death (St Faustina’s Diary  813).

‘And I heard a voice  from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from  now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the  Spirit, “they will  rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.” ( Rev. 14:13)

These  days we cannot expect a  better  blessing than a happy death.  In the Book of  Revelation it is also written: ‘And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.’ (Rev 9:6). It is time to think about  death because  we are  moving fast  to a  situation where even  death would be difficult and a happy death will be the ultimate blessing. 

May the Good Lord give us the   grace to   commend our souls to  the eternal father the  way Jesus  did. 

Let us pray:

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I offer you my heart and my soul.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, assist me in my last agony.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul with you in peace.

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