33rd Saturday of Ordinary Time
1 Maccabees 6:1-13; Luke 20:27-40
The first reading of today’s liturgy presents us with a classic story. The king finds out he is mortally ill and does not have long to live, at which time he seems to get religion. As he confronts his mortality, he also gains insight into his sinfulness. The question this experience raises is: How do I regain all that I have squandered? The country singer Tim McGraw wrote a song that spoke t this very issue: Live Like You Were Dying. Saint Benedict takes up this theme in the fourth chapter of his Rule for monks: “day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.”
I borrowed this paragraph from the Liturgical Press Webpage. “News spread that an elder father lay dying in the desert of Skete. The brothers came, stood around his deathbed, clothed him and began to cry. But he opened his eyes and laughed. And he laughed again, and then again. The surprised brothers asked him, ‘Tell us, Abba, why do you laugh while we cry?’ He spoke, ‘I laughed at first because you fear death. Then I laughed because you are not ready. A third time I laughed because I am going from hard work to enter my rest – and you are crying about that!’ He then closed his eyes and died” (Liturgical Press webpage). While acknowledging natural fear and reasonable anxiety in the face of death, this ancient story makes room for a surprisingly joyous and positive experience in the process of death and dying.
Here is a question each of us needs to grapple with: Do we really yearn for everlasting life? Or are we caught up in the love of this life? The importance of this question was underscored by Pope Francis: “We begin to die when we forget about death.” The pope added: “It is death that allows life to remain alive.” Likewise, Erich From wrote: “To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable.” In this same vein, the Dalai Lama said: “I don’t want to die without ever having really lived. I don’t want to sacrifice my health in order to make money. I wish to live in the present.” “Only a life that is conscious of the fact that this exact instant will end works to make it eternal … Remember, if death is not to have the last word, it is because in life we learned to die for one another” (Pope Francis).
We can live our lives and face death without fear because we know God is true and faithful to his Word. Because we know him to be an everlasting Father we can surrender their souls to His loving care. Because we know ourselves to be loved by Him we can trust him at all times and desire to enter our heavenly homeland. Because we know that God has made us to cooperate in his act of creation we can enjoy all that we have been given and use it for the building up of the kingdom. I will leave you with these few words of St. Edith Stein. “O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage, and strength to serve you. Kindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me” (St. Edith Stein).