This morning I said mass for the fourth graders. There were some brand new servers there who had no idea what they were doing, and some new readers who couldn’t seem to find their place in the book. There was a children’s choir there who got so excited that some of their singing was closer to yelling, and many of their grandparents and parents attended the mass to give them support. (I also hope that they came to pray the mass–sometimes I think the children take that more seriously than their parents do.) I asked several questions and the children were full of zeal and eagerness. I even gave one of them three dollars for recognizing that the first thing we do after we make the sign of the cross at mass is the Penitential Rite. During my homily, I told them how Jesus left us in charge of the world like the parable in the gospel says that he did, and I continued that they need to take that seriously and try to help get their friends into heaven. The point is that the mass was full of life, and not a little bit of chaos as well. It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it. It was a good kind of chaos, kindof like a breakfast at the dinner table of a large family.
As soon as the mass ended, I got a phone call. A man was dying at Slidell Memorial. I went straight from a church full of life to an ICU unit full of sickness and death. The man in his sixties was not really prepared to die, but his body had given up on him, so his family was removing life support.
There is such a huge contrast between those two events. One place was full of chatter, prayer and singing, and another was full of bustling nurses and the beeps of machines keeping people alive. One place was bursting with so much life that I was trying to contain it, and one place was draining with life so fast that you felt like you were trying to grasp it like sand running through your fingers.
The Lord says that we should watch because we do not know the day or the hour. that promise becomes much more real when you come face to face with somebody’s hour. I placed a tiny piece of the Eucharist in his mouth as he flatlined.
You know, a lot of people talk about the end of the world. According to the Mayans, it might even end this December, but I don’t take it very seriously. And even if it’s true, so what? What is definitely true is that whether the whole world ends today or tomorrow or in December or 1,000 years from now, it will certainly end for each one of us. No matter what happens, each one of us will hear the angel’s trumpet blast, the silver cord of the soul will be snapped, the golden bowl broken, and we will find ourselves face to face with our maker and our judge.
The Lord says, “To he whom much has been given, much will be asked.” With that final ending in mind, I would ask you the following simple question: “What truly has God asked of me?”
Spiritual Principle #3: In the end, it won’t have mattered if you you did what you wanted, but only what HE wanted.