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Life or Death

I have grand plans of traveling some day. Who knows if it will ever happen, but one place near the top of my list is Hawaii. These islands have beautiful creatures and crystal blue water. There is history as well as beauty. Something they don’t always put in the brochures is that there is also MYSTERY!

As is well known, Hawaii’s islands were created through volcanic processes. Those same processes created a network of tunnels and caves. Some of these are beautiful tourist attractions.

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Many of these, though, are cold, dark and full of toxic gases and minerals. Places like that are seemingly inhospitable to life, but scientists have discovered complex colonies of microbes. These organisms are the smallest known living things on earth.

Some of these caves dating back 500 years or more have diverse populations of microorganisms. Over time, these tiny creatures have adapted to their changing environment and adapted their social structure to fit this new environment. In otherwise inhospitable environments, these communities have survived for centuries.

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One of the reasons these lava caves are so interesting to scientists is because this heat and toxic gas is close to the conditions on Mars or other distant planets. To us, Mars seems completely inhospitable to life, but maybe we are wrong. Mars seems like it could only kill us, but maybe, just maybe, these caves hold the key to us surviving that toxic wasteland.

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When I read the first reading for this Sunday, these lava caves which are inhospitable to human lives were all I could think of:

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,

when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,

and the day that is coming will set them on fire,

leaving them neither root nor branch,

says the LORD of hosts.

But for you who fear my name, there will arise

the sun of justice with its healing rays. (Malachi 3:19-20)

Lava burns and kills most everything in its path. Yet the microbes survive and thrive where others have been set on fire. It is a beautiful miracle that these microorganisms live. Similarly, it is a beautiful miracle that the Lord will save us from the fire. As we come to the end of the liturgical calendar year, we take the time to contemplate our deaths. What fate will we have when we leave this earth? The first reading for Sunday tells us of the two options.

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We as Christians have hope that we will go to the eternal paradise of heaven. Beyond hope, it becomes even expected. I’m good enough compared to those around me, thus I EXPECT that God will give me this blessing. How arrogant of us. So often we forget what a true miracle it is to be received into heaven. How truly unthinkable that we might exist in this place beyond our comprehension. It is truly only through God’s mercy that our salvation is possible.

The expectation of salvation may not be a bad thing if it is rooted in trust of God and his infinite mercy and not our own arrogance. St. Faustina teaches us this well. May we learn from her deep trust of Christ’s infinite mercy by praying for an increase of trust in just that.

Divine Mercy, enclosed in the Heart of Jesus for us, and especially sinners, I trust in You.

Divine Mercy, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, I trust in You.

Divine Mercy, in our justification through Jesus Christ, I trust in You.

Divine Mercy, accompanying us through our whole life, I trust in You.

Divine Mercy, embracing us especially at the hour of death, I trust in You.

Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life, I trust in You.

(St. Faustina's Notebook)