January 16 was the second anniversary of my husband Mark's death. So the Four Last Things, Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell have been much on my mind.
Then on January 17 I went to our monthly "Lovers of Newman" group at the IHM convent in Colwich, Kansas to read an unusual New Year's Day sermon by John Henry Newman, "The Lapse of Time".
Newman delivered this sermon in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin on January 1, 1832--before the Oxford Movement began--and he celebrated the New Year with his parishioners by reminding them that their time on earth is fleeting, precious, and consequential, that each one of them will die some day--maybe not tomorrow--but some day, and that when they die they will have no time left to live so as to prepare to die.
Death may come suddenly:We naturally shrink from the thought of death, and of its attendant circumstances; but all that is hateful and fearful about it will be fulfilled in our case, one by one. But all this is nothing compared with the consequences implied in it. Death stops us; it stops our race. Men are engaged about their work, or about their pleasure; they are in the city, or the field; any how they are stopped; their deeds are suddenly gathered in—a reckoning is made—all is sealed up till the great day. What a change is this! In the words used familiarly in speaking of the dead, they are no more. They were full of schemes and projects; whether in a greater or humbler rank, they had their hopes and fears, their prospects, their pursuits, their rivalries; all these are now come to an end. One builds a house, and its roof is not finished; another buys merchandise, and it is not yet sold. And all their virtues and pleasing qualities which endeared them to their friends are, as far as this world is concerned, vanished. Where are they who were so active, so sanguine, so generous? the amiable, the modest, and the kind? We were told that they were dead; they suddenly disappeared; that is all we know about it.