Thursday, August 27, 2015

“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to "die before you die" --- and find that there is no death.”

"Many people in this world do not want to think of death. My sons, keep in mind that whether we think of it or not, death is unavoidable." – St John Bosco (1815 – 1888: popularly known as Don Bosco, was an Italian Roman Catholic priest, educator and writer)

Gospel Text: (Mt 24:42-51)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Recently I took a walked in a New England cemetery, in the north east of the United States.  It dated back to the 1660’s.  Dusty, weedy pathways squirreled among over 2,000 graves.  Some headstones stood straight and tall.  Others slumped. More were scarred or fractured.  Others, no longer able to stand, were concealed in the overgrowth.

I found comfort in reading this old cemetery.  I awakened again to my mortality, my vulnerability and the fragility of life.  Each marker offered a glimpse into a life. Soldiers and sailors from all of our country’s military battles rest here. Young women who died in childbirth rest here.  Infants, children, even siblings, who died long before their parents, rest here. Seafarers lost at sea are remembered here. The young, the old, widows and widowers, the trusted and the shiftless rest here side by side. Nathaniel, a surviving twin who lived only days, rests near Phoebe who lived to be 97. Names, but no faces. There was no rhyme or reason, no recognizable pattern to the lives and deaths. It doesn’t take much to imagine the sorrows, joys and challenges buried here.

Did they ‘stay awake’?  ‘Ready’ the day the Lord came?  ‘Faithful and prudent servant(s)”? 

“Stay awake”. St. Matthew in today’s gospel passage does not paint a pretty picture of what it might be like not to be awake and prepared, prudent and faithful.

 “Stay awake” or else!  Or else what?  Or else, I may miss something beautiful, amazing, or unexpected.  I may not recognize Jesus who stands near me.  I may miss the Lord’s gentleness in the young mother taking her anxious child to the first day of school. Or the face of Compassion on the nurse caring for the dying man. Or Christ’s longing in the eyes of a homeless child. I may miss the Jesus of peace and justice in the dedicated, diligent arbitrator. I may miss the jovial Jesus in the wedding celebration. I may miss the every-day-God of love, laughter, friendship, joy, peace and comfort. I may miss hearing the Lord calling my name revealing Love and/or gently revealing my brokenness.  Now that I am awake, at least for the moment – I see, I hear the Lord’s work among us.  I experience God’s laboring in me!

As I paused among the headstones I am reminded of the love and the mercy of the Lord.

The good-news: The every-day-God dwells among us.

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