Many years ago, I was at a funeral of a great friend. He was burned to death in a fire at his home while he was sleeping. Of course, it was tragic. Sudden death, something not anticipated and not prepared for, is a trial and a test for the living. You all know what I mean. It’s something that makes you question the meaning of your own existence. You ask yourself things like: “why him and not me; why am I still here; what makes me so special?” And you doubt your value to this world, because you know your friend or family member certainly had promise and would make great contributions to mankind.
This is natural. And these questions are predictable, especially when we are in a state of shock. After all, we were not prepared for the sudden separation.
I remember, at his funeral, while the priest was laying the pall over his coffin, the wife of our boss, a Pennsylvania state senator, said “I thought we didn’t have to go through this.” She meant, of course, that she didn’t want to go through the grief and sadness of the funeral and subsequent mass for the dead. She chose not to grieve because it was, perhaps, inconvient, even uncomfortable. She chose to ignore our final outcome: that we are human and as such must die, whether it is inconvient or uncomfortable or not, depending upon your viewpoint on our final destination; which to a lot of people is, as it was to her, completely unknowing or something that you simply didn’t want to think about. Or, maybe she believed that we all have a soul and that we are all saints and All-Stars, that we all immediately, upon death, go to heaven. So what’s the big deal?
Death, Let’s Talk About It
It’s our final destination. We can’t live forever no matter how many “nips and tucks” we’ve had in our lifetime. We may run away from our final destination but it’s still there. One day, we’ll all die. The famous and the beautiful, the rich and the aristocrats, the icons of industry and the idols of popular culture will all meet the same end as beggars on the street. St. Thomas More, recognizing the inevitability of his own death at the block, said before Parliament, that “death comes to us all, even for kings he comes.” He was an All-star who recognized death for what it really is: a new beginning. It certainly is not the end of anything. It is not something to be feared. It is natural. It happens to all creatures; nothing on this earth can escape it, nor should they want to.
In God’s Time
We are destined for great things. Each and every one of us. We may not know what our destiny is, nor appreciate it in our lifetime. But God does. We are, even if we don’t recognize it, All-Stars. We have the potential to be saints. We can recognize our faults, ask for forgiveness, and receive it if only we put our pride aside and bend a knee. Though we may not be great in men’s eyes at this time, we are great in the eyes of the Almighty who rules the universe and sends his angels to keep, at His pleasure, the order of all things we take for granted. Like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. Like the stars which guide our ships at sea and the dew in the morning that waters our crops even before the invention of irrigation. Like the changing colors of the leaves in the fall and the promise of sunshine and the first robin in the spring after a cold winter. But, we take these things for granted. The sun doesn’t have to rise in the east if God did not command this. Why should it? We expect this. But, why should we? We are spoiled children who expect so much from our Creator even when we never thank Him for the gifts He gives us each and every day. At times, perhaps many times, we are spoiled-rotten children, yet He still loves us, more than we know. Just like our parents, who endure our selfishness for a time because they believe the seeds of faith they diligently planted in us will bear fruit one day and, perhaps, change the world.
Mercy, Even Without a Mea Culpa?
There are times in our lives where we have acted foolishly, even sinfully, yet our great Sovereign Lord has chosen to overlook these times. He has patiently waited for us to wake up from our sleeping sickness and recognize the dawn of a new day. This is what free will is all about. We are our own judges, for a time, here on earth. But we lack objectivity, because we are primarily concerned with defending ourselves. Therefore, we seek forgiveness on our own terms. God somehow understands this rebellion, some say. After all we are just children. And as children we tend to excuse our mischievous behavior, and we are certainly vindicated by the culture we live in. Pope Francis, I think, is in agreement with this. This is what the synod in Rome was all about. Our lives are now judged only by the standards of political correctness which demands acceptance of all lifestyles and asks no one to take a knee. But, as much as the Lord’s mercy is ever patient and kind, His mercy must remain true to Himself. Because He is truth, itself. We cannot break His commandments, nor bend the truth. No matter how much we want to accept into the fold our loved ones who seek forgiveness on their own terms.
There must be a mea culpa. There must be a surrender to His will. There is, by God’s design, unmitigated truths which have been and always will be. The heavens and the planets, the universes and the stars, all are directed by and submit to His holy will. If they didn’t we’d all be dead a long time ago. Only the unrepentant refuse His supremacy. Only the ignorant and the selfish refuse to be All-Stars in the kingdom. It’s time to take a knee. It’s that simple. I only ask our prelates to give us guidance on our path to redemption and not, as the late, great, and beloved All-Star, Yogi Berra, said “if you see a fork in the road, take it.”