|Michelangelo's Pieta or "The Pity"|
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells a story about preparing to meet God in the mystery of death. The “oil” for lamps can be understood as our good works; the “absence of oil” the lack of good works. Seize every opportunity to do good now. Why? We don’t know the day or hour of our death.
The news everyday underscores this. People may suddenly die: in natural disasters, auto crashes or mass shootings. Life can be short.
“Be prepared” is not simply a Scout motto. It’s an everyday Christian motto. As people of faith, we know that the God who gave us life will transform our earthly self into a new indescribable heavenly self. That is the Easter message.
How do we prepare to meet God? Value each day as a gift from God and live today as best we can. Make every day worth living.
Emerging medical technologies may soon be able to lengthen our years into the hundreds. But lifespan is of little value unless it is a life of quality. Interestingly a surgeon, Atul Gawande, wrote a bestseller titled “Being Mortal.” Medical care is always evolving. Gawande asks, why submit the dying to the full panoply of procedures to lengthen a life at the expense of a quality life. The question for Gawande becomes when to “let go,” when to stop treatments that likely don’t work. After all, birth and death are integral to the cycle of life.
St. Paul did not see prolonging this life as a major goal; he wrote to the Philippians, “for to me, life is Christ, and death is gain.”We were created to live in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. Without that relationship we will feel empty. People try to fill their emptiness with different things. For St. Paul, a life worth living is knowing Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom.” (Colossians 2:2–3).
God works through us in ways we may not expect, even in the midst of our struggles. When St. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was imprisoned in very bad conditions, awaiting trial and possible execution. Yet, he believed that God could work in him even then and there. Paul’s desire was for Christ to “be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil 1:20)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian who was executed for standing up against Nazism, put it well: “Your life as a Christian should make non-believers question their disbelief in God.”
We are called to be missionary disciples, to do the right thing, to make life worth living. Yes, many times in life, the first question we have to ask is, “What is the right thing to do?” And then just do it, to prepare for eternal life.