Final Perseverance (Latin Mass)

3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Beloved in the Lord,
In 1839, two young seminarians who were good friends, decided to make a pact: ‘Whoever dies first, they said, ‘should return from the grave and tell the other of what happened.’ What they did not expect, was that one of them would soon die.
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The other mourned his loss, as he attended the Funeral. That night, he couldn’t sleep. His bed was in a dormitory with 20 other seminarians; everyone else was sleeping, but he sat on the edge of his bed, and thought about the events of the day.
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Suddenly at midnight, it began: it sounded like a dull roll, then the eerie sound grew louder. It grew in intensity and the vibrations echoed off the walls like many horses or an engine. The whole dormitory was now wide awake, and then came a sound almost like an explosion, as the doors flew open.
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What entered the room was not a shape that could be identified, but a light, changing in color. As all the boys watched, it spoke: Calling out the name of the young man seated on his bed it spoke three words: ‘I am saved!’ Then it vanished.
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The seminarians all ran out of the room in fear, but not the young man seated on his bed. He had peace. His friend had kept their pact, and he was happy, because he was saved.
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Now you might say, ‘Father, that’s just another one of those “stories,”‘ until we consider who tells it to us. That young man who saw and heard all of this, was none other than St. John Bosco.
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Friends in Christ, no one knows for certain, when they die, whether they will be saved or lost; whether they will reach heaven, or hell. If a person dies in mortal sin, they will not be saved, that much is certain, because mortal sin means that a person has turned away from Christ, in a serious way has acted against God’s commandments and has not repented. One must be a friend of God to be saved. For this reason, no one should be too smug about how they will fair on judgment day.
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I meet people who think they are doing just fine, but they are living an immoral life. They are deceived. They are not on the path to heaven, but they think they are.
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And even if we feel that we are trying to follow the Lord faithfully, we cannot be certain of what state we will be in on our last day. And this brings us to the question of ‘Final Perseverance:’  persevering in Faith, in a life faithful to Christ, all the way to death. The devil will no doubt try to tempt us in the final hour, even with our past sins. And so we pray that we will obtain the ‘grace of Final Perseverance;’ we pray to obtain this grace, because it is a sheer gift of God. In no way can we earn it.
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Only God knows who will persevere to the end and be saved, and who will be lost. We call this Predestination. God knows, in his plan, who will persevere and reach heaven and who will not, and go to hell. God already knows whose names are written in the Book of Life, and whose names are missing.
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Our Lord today gives us confidence; he shows us that his mercy is always waiting for us to begin again and get back on the path to heaven. He tells of the man with the lost sheep who goes to find it; the woman with the lost coin who searches for it; in the same way, heaven rejoices when a sinner returns, and gets back on the path.
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So on the one hand, the mercy of Christ is ever urging us on to hope. On the other hand, we must never presume that we in any way deserve heaven. That is the sin of ‘presumption:’ presuming that God will bring me to heaven – no matter what. It is pride. Even the great St. Paul said that he does penance, ‘lest after having preached the gospel, I myself might be lost.’ So if this great saint didn’t presumed on his salvation, we certainly may not. I tell you that we priests often feel like St. Paul. ‘Lord, in your mercy, grant that I will persevere, that after having preached the gospel I myself will not be lost.’
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We read about King Joash in the Book of Kings. The Lord gave him so many graces and blessings; he did great good for a time, but in the end, he turned away from God in moral disaster. There are plenty of examples of people who were very good for some or most of their life, but in the end turned from God: The great Tertullian, King Saul, Judas of course, and many more, even today. They failed, because they did not persevere in grace.
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A very holy woman used to bury the martyrs;[i] it was sort of her mission; she found one who actually still had life in him; she nursed him back to health, and when he was better, temptation lead them both to commit sin, and afterward they entirely left the Catholic Faith. St. Paul says, ‘take great care, lest ye fall.
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When we walk out of a good Confession, resolved to be faithful, we can have confidence that we are a friend of God. But we must remember: we are not yet saved. As Holy Scripture says: ‘He that perseveres to the end, he shall be saved.’
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On judgment day, as the Book of Life is opened with the names, we will desperately search for our name there. As St. John says, ‘Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.’
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Some people speak foolishly about ‘once-saved-always-saved;’ they say that all you have to do is declare Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, and then it doesn’t matter what you do or what kind of sin or evil you do. Hogwash! As if my commitment to Jesus today is sufficient for the rest of my life? This is the sin of presumption. Such an idea is not in the Holy Scriptures – rather, the opposite.
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In many places, St. Paul writes letters to other Christians – who have fallen back into sinful ways. Does he tell them that they are still alright, and will be saved? No.
‘DO NOT ERROR,’ he says. ‘Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor the evil-tongued, nor the greedy will inherit the kingdom of God.
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He is writing to people who once had faith, but they have fallen back into sin. They can be forgiven, but they must change their life. Otherwise, as he says, they ‘will not inherit the kingdom of God.’
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Mother Church tells us over and over, to pray for the grace of Final Perseverance. It is a gift from God of which none of us is worthy. But Jesus desires that we persevere; the whole reason he has come and died for us, is to offer us the grace to choose the right path; all we have to do is cooperate with his grace, which he offers in abundance.
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‘But when I think about judgment and the end of my life and all my sins, I get nervous.’ Then go to Mary. St. Alphonsus says, devotion to the Mother of God during our life, will bring us joy at the end.
‘You will experience joy at your death, he says, if you can at that time remember that you have loved Mary. Nor will this joy be withheld from you, even if you have been for a time, a sinner, provided that from this day on, you live rightly, and love this dear and merciful Lady.
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Mary, pray for us. Jesus, have mercy on us. That our names will be found written in the Book of Life.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of Audrey Santo. If a miracle occurs through her prayers, please contact the Little Audrey Santo Foundation]

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[i] Preparation for Death, p. 320

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