I’ve noticed that some Christian organizations have “last days” ministries, in which they try to help the faithful prepare for coming tribulations or apocalyptic showdowns. I have no idea how close we are to the Second Coming (and if they’re honest, they don’t either). Yet instead of a “last days” ministry, I’ve been inspired to initiate a “last hours” ministry. This has nothing to do with the last hours of this world, however, but with the last hours of individual souls. You will already know of my concern for these matters if you’ve clicked on the “Save a Soul Today” page.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how fruitless it seems to try to reach people who don’t want to be reached, to help people who don’t want to be helped, to enlighten people who prefer the darkness, to get people to repent when they’re having such a lascivious good time. (Now I know that some are still called to do just that—not the good time part, but dealing directly with them and urging them to repent—and I admire their inspired and dogged determination. But I have a different calling.) So I have decided to focus my attention—that is, my prayer and the fruits of my all-too-modest sacrifices—upon the last hours, whether these souls happen to be in them or not.
By now you may be asking yourself: “What the heck is he talking about?” Well, since I see much of the world imploding by force of its own depravity, and since I’m grieved at the apparent inability of many (including myself) to open hearts to the Gospel—not in the abstract but in its practical applications in the real world—I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way many people are going to be saved is if they are rescued at the last minute as they are departing this world. In a sense, I’m being spiritually placed in the last hours of souls. When all else fails, I’ll come in to mop up the mess with abundant prayers and offerings of the Divine Liturgy to save the souls who have slipped through everyone else’s fingers.
So, without further ado, I hereby inaugurate the “Father Joseph Final-hour Mop-up Ministry.” Now I say this in a somewhat light-hearted manner, but in fact I’m dead serious.The only reason I’m doing this (like most things I do as a priest and monk) is for the salvation of souls.This ministry is probably going to arouse the ire of those dark powers who are about to pop the corks on their champagne bottles as they prepare to receive more wretched souls into their infernal houses of horror, only to find them suddenly snatched away into Paradise by the power of Jesus’ Sacrifice. But hey, you only live once.
Here’s what’s in it for you. Are there any incorrigible teenagers, irascible old folks, lapsed Catholics, ardent unbelievers, or heedless profligates among your family or friends? Or do you know someone who is dying without faith or repentance or the sacraments? Well, just send their names to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will keep a list of these “hard cases” and will pray for them (including them also in the divine mercy chaplets I pray especially for this intention), and I will also regularly offer the Divine Liturgy for their salvation.
You see, this way, even if there’s no evidence that their lives are changing for the better, you will know that graces are being “stored up” for them—Jesus did in fact tell us to “lay up treasures in heaven” (Mt. 6:20)—which the Lord may apply to them at the moment of their deaths. This is what I will ask Him to do, anyway (and I think He will, in his infinite mercy). There are so many parents who fret over their wayward children or their unbelieving relatives or friends, and such concern is legitimate. Well, now there’s something practical you can do about it. Commend them to the mop-up ministry you heard about here at Word Incarnate!
Of course, the best thing is that they hear the word of God in this life and begin to keep it, that they give their lives to the Lord and serve Him with all their hearts and souls. And for this we should continue to pray and labor. But there comes a time when it’s obvious that words have become useless, good examples aren’t followed, and in fact our loved ones may be positively led astray by the myriad seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
So what I’m saying is there is still hope. Give me their names and they will have prayers following them, graces prepared for them, so even if they somehow elude the Hound of Heaven for the greater part of their lives (or even unto their hour of death), they can still be saved. The Lord will recognize them as ones for whom treasures in Heaven have been laid up by you and by me, and He will come for them, offering them a last chance to accept his offer of salvation.
Now I can’t offer a guarantee of anyone’s salvation, since this isn’t some sort of magic and people still have free will. But I think we would all have more confidence and less anxiety if we knew that someone was looking after the souls of our loved ones in their final hour. But don’t wait till the final hour—for one thing, you don’t know when that hour will arrive for any given soul. Let’s get this mop-up ministry going right now, so even if they make a mess of their lives, the Lord’s grace will be available when it is most needed.
Pray for me too. I’m very limited in what I can do, and I’m limited in about every way you can think of, and then some—but I can still pray for the salvation of your wayward loved ones and offer the Divine Liturgy, which brings to bear on those hapless souls all the grace and love and power of Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection, which can save the world from all its endless evils. Pray with me as well, so that you may share in the satisfaction of helping to save souls which would otherwise be lost. This will be unto God’s glory and thus unto your eternal blessing as well.
Every day about 150,000 souls depart from this world (which breaks down to 6,250 per hour and approximately 104 per minute: the time to start praying is now!). As members of the Body of Christ we ought to try to help as many as we can to be saved. So many people are evidently beyond all human help, beyond teaching and preaching and the usual means to bring them to Christ. But grace works silently, from within. And there is reason to hope that even if they’ve had their defenses against God up all their lives, when they find themselves in extremis they may drop their defenses long enough for God’s grace to touch their hearts.
So don’t despair over anyone. Store up treasures of grace for them. God will offer salvation to these souls, and thus we will all, in the end, have cause for rejoicing. It’s high time now to get out the mop!