At the end of the church year, we begin to hear parts of the scripture that tell of the end times.
The end times have become so easy to ignore. In my lifetime, I’ve lived through at least ten end-of-the-world predictions. The last big one was the year 2000. Remember how we had endless apocalyptic predictions of computer meltdowns, failed power plants, water and food shortages all symbolized by the ominous Y2K.
Currently, it seems to be global warming that is going to end it all. And the terrorist attacks in Paris this weekend remind us dramatically how fragile life really is. The world seems very vulnerable today. There will always be something that makes us believe the end is coming soon.
And the truth is we all will see an end to life sometime ... that’s certain.
Jesus sets before us in the Gospel two sobering themes. First, the end of our life could come suddenly - that certainly seem real as we watch what happened in Paris - and, then he asks us if we are prepared for that end. These are themes we never like to spend much time on, but we cannot afford to take them lightly. These are themes that we cannot afford to dismiss casually. And the truth is, how we respond to these two themes has the potential to change our lives. That’s why the Church sets these themes before us at the end of the liturgical year. It wants to remind us, as Jesus reminded his disciples, that life on earth is but a brief preparation for an eternal life to come.
Therefore ... we should always be prepared for that moment.
Some years ago, Dr. Kubler-Ross of the University of Chicago wrote a book called, “Death and Dying.” It grew out of her work with terminally ill people. Commenting on their feelings about life as they looked back on it at the moment of death, she writes: “They saw in the final analysis that only two things matter: the service you render others and love. All those things we think are important like fame, money, prestige and power are insignificant.
This weekend’s events in Paris made me think about how fragile life really is. I thought about what I’d want to do if I were suddenly confronted with the end. I’d want to tell everyone of my family members I loved them. I’d hope that the last time we were together was a joyful, happy event. This holiday season when the family gathers, thinking how that might be the last time we are together, I want to make it is a truly joy-filled memorable meal; a meal where I affirm everyone there and tell them how much I love them. Let’s all make a commitment to make our next family meal, or meal with friends, something truly special.
This is the point of Jesus’ remarks in today’s gospel.
None of us knows when the end of our life, or of all life on earth will come. Therefore, we must be prepared ... always. This is the message that Jesus speaks to us in today’s gospel. This is the message that Jesus wants us to ponder prayerfully this week.
We all want to be ready when the time comes. James Weldon Johnson in his book “God’s Trombones” describes the final moment in the life of a woman named Caroline. She was fully prepared for death when it came. Johnson writes of Caroline: “She saw what we couldn’t see; she saw Old Death. She saw Old Death coming like a falling star. But death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline; he looked to her like a welcome friend. And she whispered to us: “I’m going home.” And she smiled and closed her eyes.”
I think we all want to be that prepared when death approaches. There is a special spiritual peace in knowing that you are ready; always prepared for the Coming of Our Lord. If you are ready, you will have Gods heart, as Dr. Kubler-Ross described it, a heart full of love and a yearning to serve others. Jesus told us: “if you want to be great in the Kingdom of God you need to be a servant to all.”
Perhaps today’s readings rather than frightening us can be a gift. They can be the cause of an attitude adjustment. They can remind us that today, as the saying goes, is the first day of the rest of our life; and tomorrow is yet another day of opportunity to serve and love. They can remind us that we must always treat each other the way we would if we knew it was our last time together.
Several years ago, Tim McGraw had a hit on country radio titled “Live Like You Were Dying”. The song was about a man in his forties who received the news that he had cancer. The song touched me because when I was in my 40s I was diagnosed with a very serious cancer too. This song tells how this young man decided to live out the remaining days of his life.
The lyric says:
I went skydiving.
I went rocky mountain climbing
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'
I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And then he said ...
Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin'.
That’s exactly what Jesus is telling us!
We are not promised tomorrow. Today could be our last day. If you knew for a fact that today was your last ...
What would you do?
Where would you go?
Today Jesus tells us:
Don’t wait ... live now ... live ... like you were dyin’.