In two weeks we begin the Advent Season, and each year, as we near the end of the Church Year and prepare for the beginning of a new Church Year, the readings remind us that this world will end. We live at a time when so much of our lives is organized and planned. We have celebrations to mark the beginning of significant events such as: Weddings, Baptisms, and new jobs; and we mark the end of significant events such as: graduations (even from pre-school), moving away, and retirement. All of these are well scheduled, planned, save the date cards and invitations are sent. Unlike these, and somewhat against our nature, the end of the world is unknown to us. When Jesus speaks about the end of the world, and people asked him; “Teacher, when will this happen?” He does not give them a precise day or hour. Instead he tells them of all kinds of events and signs to watch for.
What it comes down to is that the end can occur in one of two ways, the major event itself in which Christ Comes in glory, or our personal event when we breathe our last. The first has not yet happened, but the second is one that we probably all have experienced in some way or another. It is shocking to hear of the death of someone we know, who we were just with recently, even the night before. A somewhat odd saying I’ve heard is; “poor John, he went to bed last night, and this morning he woke up dead.” Then there are those who die from accidents or sudden illness. All of these can be shocking because in the midst of our grief at the unexpected loss of someone, is the reality that it could happen to us. What are we to do with this knowledge of the uncertainty of the day or hour when we will breathe our last?
Saint Benedict, in Chapter Four of his Rule, wrote; “Remember to keep death before your eyes daily.” We prepare by being mindful of what a gift God has blessed us with in willing that we be born into this world. It is a gift that is both fragile and finite, and calls us to keep in mind that someday it will end. Keeping death before us is not meant to be morbid or depressing, it is to be mindful of the reality of who we are. Never to forget that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and God’s desire is that we someday enter into the glory of eternal life with him. Keeping death before our eyes is a means for us not to remain mindful of what God has planned for us, and to live our lives in joy and hope for that moment. The reality is that God is our creator who loves us with unconditional love and death is preparing to meet our lover, and doing all that we can to make ourselves pleasing by doing and being what and who God wants us to be.
The observance of the end of the Church year is an opportunity to pause and to ask ourselves how we are living. Here are a few questions to reflect on during the closing weeks of this Church Year. Have I grown closer to the Lord? Am I better at loving my neighbor as myself? Am I more aware of opportunities to serve? Let us continue to get ready to meet the Lord, whenever he might return.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Photo: Kim Metzgar