Objective truth series – Reflection #20 — dying to oneself and preparing for death at the same time.
In our last reflection we considered how we have to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. This work must be unto death. We cannot stop working with fear and trembling until we have drawn our last breath, knowing that Jesus Christ in His Human Nature will meet us Himself to judge us.
At death the soul seems to recede out of the body—the limbs become colder and as in fainting or being anesthetized, everything [all one’s surroundings] seem to be going farther and farther away. This is known from people who have been resuscitated and have told what they experienced. We also know of this type of thing from the lives of the saints— those who were miraculously raised from the dead, and from apparitions of souls from purgatory. Thus, the soul seems to distance itself from the body and then, of course, the substantial change of the soul actually leaving the body is one horribly painful moment.
This is a very sobering thing to reflect upon. We must die to ourselves and distance our souls from our bodies now. We show true love for ourselves and our bodies by thinking of the eternal happiness for our souls and bodies, particularly, by the practice of penance here in this life. The soul will show love of the body by treating the body distantly, namely, trying to distance one’s will from his material body. When the soul becomes detached from the body in this manner, it consequently will be detached from other material things. By thinking of the reality that at death our souls must really leave our bodies, it makes the thought of doing penance more acceptable to our wills. In other words, this gives us an additional incentive and desire to do the penance that Our Lord says is necessary for our salvation. Let’s face it, even though Our Lord tells us authoritatively that we will perish if we do not do penance, we are not frightened enough to do what is necessary for our souls.
Yet we know that the denial of ourselves is necessary for our salvation by just reading the following quotes from Our Lord Himself:
· “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it dies it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal.” (St. John 12:24-25)
· “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (St. Luke 9:23)
· “No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” (St. Luke 13:3) and a little farther on He says, “No, I say to you: but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.”
· “But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (St. Matt. 24:13)
· “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.” (St. Matt. 11:12).
These words inspire awe and sobriety indeed! Likewise, Our Lady in her apparitions at La Salette, Lourdes, and Fatima, insists that we Catholics pray and sacrifice for the salvation of our souls and for the conversion of sinners.
Holy Mother Church, the Mystical Bride of Christ, has taught throughout the ages, the importance of doing penance for the reparation of our sins. We have the season of Lent which is always penitential and had always provided the faithful with the obligation of doing penance. (Unfortunately, the Conciliar Church, has done away with almost all obligatory penance.)
Yet the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent and the Ember Days are not all the penance that is needed. Our Lord, Our Lady, and the many saints have all exhorted us to undertake a life of penance in order to discipline our passions and curb/root out our vices.
Furthermore, we all need to make reparation for all of our sins and this is reason alone to do penance, but our motive for doing penance must be higher than this. We must certainly consider how doing penance and dying to ourselves have many wonderful consequences such as the following:
1) Shows Our Lord that we love Him;
2) Shows Our Lord that we want to be His true friends and disciples;
3) Makes reparation for our past sins and the sins of the world;
4) Makes our souls more Christ-like, precisely because penance disciplines the soul and purges out vices and imperfections;
5) Prepares our souls for a holy death by strengthening the soul and detaching ourselves from the world;
6) Makes us more selfless; and
7) Gives us more of a longing to be with Our Lord.
Our Lord suffered from the moment of His conception to His last breath on the Cross. We should desire to imitate Him. In other words, we should be willing to suffer out of love for Him. We certainly want our love for Christ to grow.
In order to imitate Christ, He tells us to follow His examples of selflessness. He Himself said that the Son of Man has no place to lay His Head. The Gospels are full of details to ponder on the countless ways in which we can imitate Our Lord.
Basically, by dying to ourselves through doing penance to discipline ourselves, we imitate Christ and thus increase our love for Our Lord. However, we mustn’t forget that by dying to ourselves in our daily lives, it is actually preparing ourselves for death. What a wonderful precept of Divine Wisdom to command something that has so many beautiful and efficacious consequences for our souls! How good God is!
In addition to His command to die to ourselves, God also gives us so many examples in the lives of the Saints showing us how to go about doing this internal death through penance. The edifying examples of the saints give us much encouragement and inspiration for our lives. The Saints show us how doing penances and offering up our crosses really does lead to a holy life and hence, to a holy death.
One such beautiful example is dear St. Paul who encourages us to die to ourselves when saying, “But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.”(1 Corinth. 9:27)
We should thank God for His loving warnings, and for giving us so many encouraging examples of penance in the lives of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Saints. Let us not forget to beg our dear Heavenly Mother, the Mother of Sorrows, and St. Joseph, the Patron of the Dying, to help us die to ourselves daily. With these means we will be preparing for death as we journey towards death and our hearts might express our tenderest feelings to Our Lord thus:
Oh dearest Lord thou hast us shown,
How of our lives, too fond we’ve grown,
We’ve been too attached to the earth,
We’ve not noted, our souls’ full worth.
Yet thou hast taught us by Thy Life,
That ours with pleasures have been rife,
Penance is the most needful cure,
To die to self we must endure.
To prepare our souls for our death,
We must work until our last breath,
And kill the old man in our soul,
Make ready for life’s final goal.
And other motives, there are too,
That make penance, crucial to do,
To increase in hearts, love divine,
To things of heaven, to incline.
A profound friendship ‘twill inspire,
And kindle our hearts with new fire
Making repairs for our past wrongs,
To Him to whom our debt belongs.
True penance is not just for pain,
Hoping only, for us to gain,
Some credit or to inspire awe,
But, because our passions, are raw
We know that we need, them to train,
Easier to keep them, in rein,
While doing battle here below,
With this can our love, for Christ grow.
Our Lady will help us not tire,
To follow His Path with desire,
And His Divine Precepts to keep,
And be always a faithful sheep.
Beseech St. Joseph at our side,
To a holy death he’ll us guide,
With heav’nly helpers we can be,
Safe like them for eternity.
St. Paul says, “To die is to gain,”
Our Lord says, to die like grain,
If we die to ourselves in time,
Then for us can death be sublime.