“Therefore keep watch, for you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13)
These words from the Gospel of Matthew are used to describe the last day of the world and the general judgment, but it can also be applied to the day and hour of a specific person’s death and their particular judgment. And this is something that we need to reflect on frequently, even though it may have just been brought to the forefront in the last few days. For me, it started this past Thursday when we found out that my fourth cousin on my mom’s side died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving behind a wife and two children. Before that, Carley McCord-Ensminger, the daughter-in-law of an LSU football coach, had been killed in a plane crash on her way to the national championship game. And then, I’m sure you’ve all heard of the death of Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter and seven other people, in a helicopter crash yesterday. These kinds of stories are heartbreaking, particularly when the victims have spouses and children, but they also draw our attention to the reality that we must keep before us always: our lives are not our own and we do not have control over them. The only One who does is God. We must always keep Him in our hearts and minds, and offer everything we do in union with His Son Jesus for our salvation and the salvation of others.
As Catholics, that also gives us the responsibility of adhering to Christ and His Church and getting the graces we need to do this by frequenting the Sacraments, particularly Holy Communion and Reconciliation. If we receive them often, there is a greater likelihood that we will not suffer an unprovided death, i.e. without having received the Sacraments. This is why it never hurts to go to Confession and receive the Eucharist before an activity where you may not survive, even if the risk of death is low (e.g. surgery, plane ride, etc.). Kobe Bryant was a practicing Catholic and, thanks be to God, had reportedly gone to Mass Sunday morning before boarding the helicopter.
Don’t wait. Don’t say that you’ll get right with God at the moment of death. You may not get the chance. If you want to be recognized by God after your death, you have to act like it now. Tomorrow is not promised. We only have today.
And please keep in your prayers all of the victims and their families, as well as my mom’s side of our family. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.