We didn’t know about ‘the letter’ until the body of Senator Edward Kennedy was being laid to rest at the Arlington Cemetery. The American President knew about the letter because he hand-delivered it to Pope Benedict XVI less than 50 days before Senator Kennedy died.
Senator Edward Kennedy was a man of significant influence for almost half a century in the United States of America. His brother President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Earlier, one of his siblings, Joe Kennedy lost his life in World War II. Another brother, Robert F. Kennedy died from an assassin’s bullet during his 1968 bid for the White House. Much more recently, just thirteen days before his own death, his sister Eunice Shriver died. She was the founder of the Special Olympics.
Many books have been written about deaths and tragic mishaps occurring within the family circle of America’s best known family – the Kennedy’s. Senator Kennedy himself survived a plane crash suffering a broken back. He survived a car accident that claimed the life of a friend. He was the rock at numerous Kennedy family funerals. He survived many personal issues and family troubles.
On May 20, 2008 Mr. Kennedy faced another major hurdle – a brain tumor. Was it another one of those difficult hurdles to overcome or would it be the brick wall that allows no escape? Sadly, it proved to be the immoveable and insurmountable barrier.
He left this life for eternity on August 20, 2009.
As the late Senator Kennedy faced his own mortality and thought about ‘what comes after death’ he wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI. Time was short. He requested the President of his country to hand-deliver it to the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
In the letter, Kennedy acknowledged that he was preparing for the next passage of life. He had made many appearances around the world over his lifetime – at political rallies, with world leaders, for charitable and humanitarian causes, etc. But now he was facing his first appearance on the stage of God’s eternal theatre. In preparation for the event, he turned to the Pope for his prayers and intervention. He wrote:
“Most Holy Father, I asked President Obama to personally hand-deliver this letter to you. I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines….”
“I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life…”
“I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful family. Both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives…”
“I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination, and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty, and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me…”
“I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life….
“I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic Your Holiness. And though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I…would be most thankful for your prayers for me.” (1) (2)
During the 50 days after Mr. Kennedy wrote his letter, I hope he found the peace and forgiveness that comes from knowing Christ as his personal Saviour. It’s too late now to get a message to Mr. Kennedy. We can only pray that God will comfort his family as they mourn his loss. But it’s not too late for you to benefit from the lessons that can be learned from Mr. Kennedy’s letter.
Lesson #1: Prepare today to meet your Maker.
Preparing for the next passage of life at the age of seventy seven is a risky time to prepare; but let’s face it – it’s better to prepare at that stage of life than to never prepare. The Bible says: “Prepare to meet your God.” Amos 4:12.
Friend, are you ready to die? Or do you have some unattended business to clear up between you and your Maker before you go out to meet Him?
Lesson #2: You have failed according to God’s standards.
Dear Mr. Kennedy was not the only imperfect human being nor was he the only one who had fallen short of God’s holy standards. The Bible is clear – not one person on this planet measures up to God’s righteous requirements. Read Romans Chapter 3 – we are all sinners! No one has any ‘goodness’ to offer God to gain His favor.
Mr. Kennedy was preparing for death and he was facing his own guilt over failures in his life. What about you? Have you faced the guilt of your sins?
Lesson #3: Doing your best is not the way to get eternal life and heaven.
It is tragic that religion teaches that doing our best will help us find favor with God. Religion (not the Bible!) teaches that our human efforts will influence God’s decision as to whether you go to Heaven or Hell after you die.
There is no question that Mr. Kennedy worked hard and long for legislation he thought would benefit the people of his country and the people coming to his country. He succeeded in having over 500 bills he authored turned into law. What do you have on your list?
The Bible is clear – when God grants eternal life He gives it as a gift – not a reward for accomplishments on earth. “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. We are saved through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ. “It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Lesson #4: Your record of sinful failures and your guilt can be completely removed.
I would have loved to have whispered in Mr. Kennedy’s ears that regardless of his failures in the past the Bible says: “The blood of Jesus Christ, His (God’s) Son, cleanses us from ALL sin.” 1John 1:7
Every one of your sins can be forgiven. Christ died for your sins and took all the punishment. Now God can offer you, free without charge, the complete forgiveness of all your sins the moment you trust His Son as your own personal Saviour. But you must accept!
Lesson #5: There is only one mediator between you and God. Go to the right one.
There’s nothing wrong with asking others to pray for you. What is wrong is when you think that someone else can mediate on your behalf in helping you find favor with God. No human being, regardless of their status, can do that for you.
No religion on earth has the power to forgive sins. Forgiveness is through Christ alone. There’s no other way to atone or make amends for your sins. “Through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you and by Him, everyone who believes is freed from everything…” Acts 13:38, 39. “There is salvation in no one else…” Acts 4:12
“There is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” 1Timothy 2:5-6
Prepare today. Let us know if you have repented of your own sin and trusted Christ as your personal Saviour.
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(2) Bold font for emphasis supplied by www.heaven4sure.com