Facing Death Clarifies our Priorities….
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! ” Revelation 12:10-12 (NLT)
36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36 (NLT)
Driving home from a meeting last night, I drove past a place where my dad had worked……wasn’t planning on it, just trying to avoid the mess on California freeways.
But there it was, another company in the building, but it still looked the same…. still a place where carpet and tile was sold, still had the weeds I was paid to pull out some 30+ years ago…..grief I thought that I had processed welled up again…
It’s not been a year since my dad died… and when I got home, I heard that another friend had passed away. A man unique in that, though my dad’s age, he treated me like I was his dad, a spiritual father perhaps. Not the only one he had, by any means, but still, even at our last breakfast together, as he told me of his days left…. I found myself in awe, as he asked me how to live that life. “Pastor Dt,” Bill asked, “How can I minister to people in the last months of my life….”
No one has ever been that direct. Like the first reading above, my friend wasn’t afraid to die, or even the process of dieing. He was afraid of not being a significant part of God’s work, in the months (actually less a little more than two) that he had left. He knew the power of sharing the gospel with people – even rejoiced and joked about his struggles to do so. He, I think, got the idea that Pope Francis wrote, that I quoted yesterday….
“Our mission, then— the mission that frightens us and makes us offer excuses like the ones we hear from the lips of the reluctant prophets in the scriptures— is to evangelize, to shepherd the faithful people of God. And that mission establishes us in our vocation. In calling us to that mission, Jesus gives us solidity in the depths of our hearts: he establishes us as pastors and makes that our identity. In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments , in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly activity, we are collaborating with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own.” (1)
He desired that Jesus would take root deeply in his heart, in his soul. He knew the joy of baptizing someone, of partaking in that miracle. Or in handing someone the chalice containing the blood of Christ.
I am not saying he was perfect – heck, he would be the first to indicate that was so untrue, that it wasn’t even funny. He struggled with a lot of things, things he didn’t think were right. He sinned, like the rest of us,
Yet, as he was facing death, his concern was how to see God use his time, how God could redeem it, make it worth the suffering, the pain.
That’s the edge he had over most of us, for we feel like we are immortal, that we’ve got decades ahead of us, and in a way, I hope we do….
But may we learn that these days are still but too short, may we realize the vocation we have as disciples, as the priesthood of all believers. That death comes way to fast, even for men who have lived 8 decades or 9. That we find life in its fullest, not when we make ourselves the center of our universes, but Christ that center, when His will becomes ours, when we ask Him, Lord, use us….may we be your instruments being the means of hope, of mercy, of love. May we too, defeat satan by the power of the blood of Christ, by our trust in Him, and our testifying of that love, and that we come to love our life in Him, that we no longer longer cling to find our life in this world.
And as we think of those who have gone before us, may the examples of Christ’s faithfulness to them help us get our priorities right….. Lord have mercy…
(1) Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.