When I was 14, I was in a high school religion class composed of freshmen and sophomores. One day, our teacher, a priest, put to us this question: “Would you rather live to be 30 or 100?”
Out of all the students (25-30?), only three said they’d like to live to be 100.
The priest was shocked. He was probably about 30 years old himself at the time and essentially what he heard was: “You should be dead”. (Which, I confess, tickles my sense of humor. I didn’t realize at the time that the students had basically said that to him.)
Of course, Father asked the students why on earth they wanted to die at 30. The response was that they thought they’d be done living the good part of life by then and that there’d be nothing left that was really worth living for.
Father’s response? We’d better hurry up and work on being saints!
10 years later, I wish I could go back and have that conversation with Father again. At the time, I was one of the three students who said I wished to be 100. Now my perspective’s shifted.
Do you think about death? Do you ever talk about it with people? It’s not a depressing topic, or it needn’t be. Not when viewed from the Christian perspective.
Are you acquainted with people who’ve suffered, really suffered? I am. And, as a rule, they make the best of friends.
People who suffer well (by trusting in God and not falling into anger, bitterness, etc.) are different. They’re full of fortitude and better equipped to understand others and their struggles. They don’t collapse under pressure, or if they stumble and fall, they get back on their feet. You can lean on them for support and trust them. If you open your aching heart to them, you can experience an instant connection with them. It’s amazing.
My point – Suffering isn’t a bad thing when you’re united to God. Death, too, can be a source of consolation.
Some days, I feel like a walking disaster. I grapple with all my different faults and still seem to make no progress. Then, one time, I started thinking about death when I was having one of these days and I was like: “Thank goodness there will be an end to this! Thank goodness there will be at time when the struggle will cease and I won’t be able to mess things up anymore.”
It was really a bracing thought especially when coupled with another thing I heard a priest mention in a homily. He said every day he tries to wake up thinking, “Today could be my last day.” Why? For one, then you don’t be caught off guard by death. Because, assuredly, one day you will be right. For another, it helps you make better use of your time and not waste it on frivolous activities, fretting about the future, bemoaning your past failures, etc.
“The past is over and done with, the future I cannot see; the present moment is all mine,”as St. Faustina writes.
Another thought – This quote comes from a third priest. My mom related it to me once when we were discussing the tragic deaths of a young couple in a car accident. My mom said the priest told her [concerning death]: “God picks the flower [a soul] when it’s at its most perfect”.
Isn’t that beautiful? If that’s so, what wonders might God have accomplished in the souls of those who die young or unexpectedly? On the other hand, what a comfort for the living. I mean, we naturally fear death. One might live with a healthy anticipation of it and prepare for it and still be afraid. But it’s all right. God won’t take us before our time.
That said, life is beautiful and worth living. It is a good thing. But it is passing. It doesn’t matter if you live to be 30 or 100. The question is: Are you living for God? If not, why?
Below is a video depicting parts of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral. I enjoy the beautiful solemnity conveyed by the images (the British are so dignified) and the music, which is a favorite piece of mine. The words express such majestic love and devotion.
I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.