A Sermon from the 1880’s, St. Paul the Apostle Church, New York

A Sermon from the 1880’s, St. Paul the Apostle Church, New York July 15, 2012


As lightning cometh out of the- east, and appeareth even unto the west : so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. ST. MATT. xxiv. 27.

THESE words of our Lord, my dear brethren, refer principally to the general judgment, which will come {suddenly upon all, at least all of those who shall be alive at the time when it shall occur. And he could not have used a more striking comparison to show how sudden it will be ; how it will take every one un awares, even of those who will be expecting it. You know that when you watch the flashes of lightning in a thunder-storm, though you are expecting them all the time, yet each one takes you by surprise ; you hardly know that it has come till it has^gone ; YOU do not so much see it as remember it. So it will be at the last and awful day ; all at once, without any warning, the heavens will open, and God will come suddenly, not this time in mercy, but in justice ; not to save the world, but to judge it ; there will be no time even for an act of contrition, but as every one is then found, so will he be for all eternity. Probably you and I will not be in this world at the time of the general judgment; it is most likely that we shall die before it comes. We shall rise from our graves and be present at it, but we shall have been already judged ; so that it will not be by it that we shall be saved or lost. But that judgment which we shall have gone through will perhaps also have come on us suddenly ; as suddenly as the one on the last day. For it will come on us the instant that our souls leave the body ; the moment after we die we shall appear before the throne of God to receive the sentence of eternal salvation or condemnation. So it may surprise us at any moment ; for we may sud denly die. There is not one of us here who has any certainty that he may not before to-day s sun sets, nay, even this very hour or minute, even before he can draw another breath, be standing before that terrible judg ment seat and receiving that sentence from which there is no appeal. How often do we hear of people suddenly struck down by death without a moment s warning; people who were promising themselves, as you no doubt are promising yourselves, many more days to live. They did not do anything, so far as we can see, to deserve such a sudden blow ; they were living lives no worse and no better than those of others around them. ” Those eighteen,” says our Lord, ” upon whom the tower fell in -Siloe, and slew them ; think you that they also were debtors that is to say, sinners above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” No, God calls us suddenly in this way to show that lie is the owner of our lives, that he has made no promise to give any one of us a single moment beyond those which he has already given. But sudden death is not, we may say, any special visitation of God. It is natural, not wonderful. If you could see the way in which your own bodies are made, you would wonder not so much that people die suddenly, but rather that they should die in any other way. It is not more surprising that one should die suddenly than that a watch should suddenly stop. The body is in many ways a more delicate thing than a watch ; and in its most delicate parts the slightest thing out of order may be fatal. So we continue to live rather by the special care which our Lord takes to preserve our lives, than by any hold which our souls have on our bodies. But you will say, ” After all, father, very few really do die suddenly, compared to those who have time to prepare.” Well, it is true that there are not many who pass instantly from full health into the shadow of death ; but if there were only one in a million, is it not a terrible risk for one who is not prepared ? And, besides, in another way it is not true. For almost all die sooner than they expect. All think, even when they have some fatal illness, that they will have more time than is really to be given them. Death, when it actually comes, is a surprise ; for every one, perhaps, the coming of the Son of Man is at the last like the lightning ; every one expects it, but not just then ; every one looks for a few moments more. When you think of these things, my dear brethren, there is only one reasonable resolution for you to make. It is to live in such a way that you may be ready to die at any instant ; to be like those wise virgin a of whom the Gospel of to-day s feast, the feast of the glorious martyr St. Catherine, tells us, who had oil in choir lamps when the cry came at midnight: “Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him.” To have the grace of God, which is represented by that oil, always in the lamp of your soul ; to be always in the state of grace, never in that of sin ; for most assuredly that cry will come to each one of you, and sooner than you think ; and. woe be to you if you are not prepared when it shall sound in your ears !

Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses On All Sundays of the Year (Sixth Edition) (New York: The Catholic Publication Society, 1886), 474-476.

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