Sunday, 21 September 2014
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Most of us are a little wary of death, and many of us get easily worried about it, while others can only cope with it by refusing to admit that a time will come when death will catch up with them.
And, if I'm honest, I'm rather in the category of those who don't really feel ready to die -some day, but not now -please!
That's why I am always struck by the passage we just heard from St Paul's letter to the Philippians, where he speaks with such amazing indifference about whether he lives or dies. For their sake, he is willing to keep living. For himself, he is ready to die -confident that the life he has lived is such that he will be with the Lord.
This question: Am I WILLING to die today! Am I READY to die today?
This question is a powerful focus, not so much on dying as on LIVING.
Let me illustrate the point this way: Many of the saints have written books to prepare you for death, called "A Preparation for Death". And if you buy one of those books you will almost certainly be surprised. Because they are books not about dying but about how to LIVE: if you live well, you will die prepared for death.
Back to St Paul. His attitude to life should make us think of our own attitude to life.
WHY did he want to keep living?
So he can catch the next episode of Coronation Street? So he can enjoy a quality bottle of red wine? So he can experience some aspect of human existence that he has not yet experienced?
No. Such thoughts were very far from St. Paul.
He wished to keep living "for your sake" so that he can keep "doing work that is having good results".
This is very far from spending his days yearning and focussing on being able to sit down and put his feet up in front of the TV!
He closes that little passage by telling us to avoid "anything in [our] lives that is unworthy of the Gospel of Christ".
A life "worthy of Christ" is, surely, a life lived as His was:
Thinking OF other people, not just thinking of myself.
Doing things FOR other people, not just checking off my own errand lists.
Let me conclude by turning our focus to death in a different way.
Today's gospel parable indicates that The Lord is willing to have us turn back to Him, willing to accept us, even if we only turn back to Him just before we die. This simple and pivotal truth of our Faith tells us much about the goodness of God.
The question you and I must constantly address to ourselves, however, is whether we are making use of this opportunity being offered by the Lord: the call to come back, no matter how long we've already put it off.
So, to sum that up:
St. Paul was indifferent to whether he died or lived. And he was ready to die precisely because he lived a good life, a life "for others". Let us examine ourselves today before the Lord and ask how much we do the same. And not put off the change we need to make.