What a silly question!, you might think. We are very much here, right in our drawing room sipping our favorite coffee and watching our favorite show in television. We are very much here.
But where are we right now? Look around for a better answer. Don’t you see strange things happening in our country and in other countries? Haven’t you noticed the mischievous weather patterns that we experience? Never heard about wars and rumours of war? What about the large scale revival of faith happening in the most unexpected of places? Worried about the equally large scale apostasy shaking the foundations of Churches? Watched the evolution of an ordinary curable disease into an epidemic and then into a pandemic? Any idea about the vaccine which is getting ready for mandatory usage? In the midst of all these things, tune your ears to the gospel message reveberating throughout the length and breadth of countries and continents, paving the way for fulfilling one of the most important prophecies about our times; that the gospel should be proclaimed to all nations. Now tell me. Where do we stand now?
We are standing at the threshold of a new age. This is the time when we look forward to meet our Lord who is coming in glory. In other words, we are living in the end times. Please do not accuse me of spreading conspiracy theories. This is not my opinion, but that of many great sons and daughters of the Church our times has produced like St Padre Pio, Blessed Fulton J Sheen, St Pope John Paul II, St Paul VI to name a few.
What awaits us beyond the threshold? There are two options; first is the New Heaven and the New Earth. How it will look like is narrated in the Book of Revelation. When the New Heaven and the New Earth are revealed, the first heaven and the first earth will disappear. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’ (Rev.21:1-2). As for me, this is one of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible. Our eyes should be tuned to the day and hour of this great event, when we will get the first glimpses of what awaits us beyond the threshold.
But there is another option as well. Bible says it is reserved for certain categories of men and women. ‘But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolators, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death’ (Rev. 21:8).
Of these two, which will be our share? It depends on how we stand at the threshold. This is why the Church tells us not to lose the grace at any time. This is why our parish priest tells us to go for confession as frequent as possible. This is why we need to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ every day. We are practising virtues exactly for this purpose. We avoid vices for this very purpose. We live a life of charity and purity with no other goals in mind. Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gala.5:22) are the steps of the great ladder connecting our mortal lives with eternal life. Undoubtedly, it is quite difficult for us to scale these steps. Jesus knew it. That is why he prescribed a remedy for it to help us. “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mathew 19:25-26). Let us see how God makes the impossible possible for us.
Entering the Kingdom of Heaven is not an easy task. We need to struggle, struggle and struggle till the very last moment of our life. What we should remember is that it is not a race that can be completed on our own. Chances are that we will miss the destination, if we run alone. In this journey from the visible world to the invisible realm, the only companion we can trust upon is Holy Spirit. He will make all things possible for us, even though they are impossible from a human angle.
What challenges us in our path to christian perfection? What makes this race more arduous and challenging? There are a number of contributory factors. We find it difficult to love our brother, we cannot forgive our neighbour, we cannot control our emotions, we cannot find joy in helping others or we fear we are losing our faith. Problems may be plenty, but the remedy is one. Holy Spirit is the panacea for all these spiritual ailments.
Why do we Christians fear at every step? Why do we lack the strength to run the full course assigned to us? What reason can we attribute for us not standing for Christ when the situation warrants? Why are we easily swayed by the falsities of this world? What prevents us from proclaiming the gospel to all creations? Why are we ashamed of the gospel? Questions are many, but the answer is one. We are yet to receive the anointment of Holy Spirit in its fullness. Holy Spirit will empower, encourage, strengthen, guide, inflame and enlighten us. Holy Spirit will give us the courage to stand for Christ in the face of mounting adversities. Be courageous, ‘for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline’ (2 Timo.1:7). Then why should we, because of sheer cowardice, waste our inheritance of eternal life with God?
Are you feeling confused? Do not worry. Remember what we did when we were children and were confused. We used to run to our mother. Every time she lifted us up in her arms, gave us a sweet kiss and solved our problems in her own ways. Now we have our Mother in heaven. Why don’t we approach her for help? Our confidence in her is that she will never let down anyone who seeks her refuge. If she prayed with the disciples in anticipation of the coming down of the Holy Spirit in the upper room, she will definitely help us too in getting the true anointment of the Holy Spirit.
Remember where we stand now. It is at the threshold of the New Heaven and the New Earth, which as children of God, is our rightful inheritance.
Mary our Mother, whom the Church salutes as ‘GATE OF HEAVEN’ is very much there to lead us in. With this confidence, let us also pray with St Bernard of Clairvaux:
‘Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help and sought thy intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother, to thee I come, before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful, O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.