The reading from St. Peter today starts out pretty grim sounding. "The end of all things is at hand. Therefore be serious and sober-minded so that you will be able to pray." In fact, today, we get a rather grim story in the Gospel today as well. Jesus curses a fig tree which doesn't bear fruit, and he angrily drives out thieves from the temple. Death, and judgment, are not realities we like to speak about, yet the Bible doesn't ignore their reality.
During the time of St. Thomas More, the Carthusians would great each other, "brother, remember your death!" It would behoove us to also remember our death. We are overly concerned about the world and distract ourselves from what is really important. We might even fill our lives up with "good stuff." Maybe it's pro-life work or taking care of our children or serving the poor. This is great; we should be doing these things. However, for a time each day, we need to set the world and all of its practical concerns aside, turn our minds to God, and remember how we will spend an eternity knowing and loving the Blessed Trinity. This is the lesson of Martha and Mary from the Gospel. Martha is busy preparing the meal, which is good! However, it is Mary that Jesus praises, for she is doing the one thing that is necessary: sitting at the feet of Jesus, praying.
When St. Peter reminds us of our death, our end, he directs us to be serious and sober-minded, so that we are able to pray. Death should lead us to prayer, first of all. It is in prayer that our dead souls reach out and make contact with the living God. If we want to experience life and have it abundantly, then we need to turn to the Lord and giver of Life: God Himself. There is no reason that we cannot do this for at least half an hour every day. I said half an hour, 30 minutes. That's a minimum. Many people don't take any time of the day to pray. If you are not taking any time to pray and speak with God, you need to question how much you really love God. If you had a spouse or a friend and never spoke to him, you would have to question whether you actually loved him. It's the same thing with God. If you are not spending time with Him, it is clear that you love other things more than God.
It is when we experience God's love for us in prayer that we are able to love one another intensely. "Love covers a multitude of sins." By turning to the Lord in prayer, receiving His grace and being a good steward of God's gifts, we prepare ourselves for selves for our death by the cleansing of our sin. As our hearts are filled more and more with the Christ's own love, the guilt of our sins is driven far away from us.
The story of the fig tree teaches about the necessity of love. Jesus curses the fig tree, not because of some petty anger, but because he wants to make a point about love in the heart. Love, above all, is the fruit of the soul. It is what God enjoys seeing most because God is love. When we die, Jesus is coming to our soul to harvest fruit like He came to the tree to harvest the figs. If he finds the fruit of love, how He will rejoice! The Lord comes to judge the earth, and He will also come across souls who are not bearing fruit. They are not praying. They are not coming to Church. They're gossiping about their co-workers, slandering, lying, stealing, or filled with lust. This makes God angry. He will not abide the destruction of the soul of one of His beloved lambs. Sometimes a lamb is the cause of its own destruction! If you are madly in love with something, you must hate that which destroys what you love. This is how it is with God as well. He will punish the things which destroy what He loves. He will drive them out from His holy temple. His house shall be called a house of prayer. He will not allow us to make it a den of thieves. Those who enter into heaven are those who chose to be thieves no longer and washed themselves in the blood of the Lamb.
So my brothers and sisters, consider your death and how to make yourself pleasing to your divine spouse. Speak with Him softly and tenderly, woo Him with humility and love in prayer. Adorn yourself with all of the virtues, clothing yourself in the glory of Christ Jesus. If you die in such raiment, though you lack all worldly possessions, the Lord who comes to judge the earth will invite you to contemplate His goodness for all eternity in His holy temple.