Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 11, 2019
One of my go-to songs in the past couple of years is a song called “The Day I Died,” recorded by a group called Five for Fighting. Its lyrics narrate, first-person, the experience of someone on the day they died. It repeats the statement in its chorus “I was alive the day I died.” That’s my hope for myself and for all of you - that we are alive, every day, fully alive until that day we die.
It’s not so much a bucket list kind of thing; I just want to live my life with no unfinished business. No one left to forgive, no one left to say “I love you,” nothing left unsaid or undone while I had the chance. Appreciating the smallest blessings even as life seems to diminish. Bottom line: I don’t want to withdraw from life as I prepare to die; I want to be alive the day I die.
It seems to me that’s what God anoints us for – to a deeper, more intimate, fuller entry into life every day. We get ready for death by living our lives as we are called to live them as God intends us to live them, with a trust that allows us to be fully alive every day. Even the day we die.
The scriptures back me up on that. Before love -because you can’t have love without trust, and before faith - because faith has to be built first upon an absolute trust in God, and before you can have peace -how can peace be achieved without first trusting? Trust.
Abraham had was an undying trust in God’s word. He was to follow him into an unknown land looking for the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. That’s it. So he and his family packed up their tents and sojourned into that so-called Promised Land. He was told that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars of the sky and more numerous than the sands of the seashore. Abraham was old, as good as dead, the scriptures tell us, and Sarah was beyond her years of fertility. But they trusted - and their son was born.
We live in a world where handshakes have been replaced by multi-page contracts, where a man’s or a woman’s word has been reduced to a “let’s wait and see.” We live in a world where doors are locked because we don’t trust our neighbors and laws allow us to carry concealed weapons and where shocking violence is no longer shocking. We live in a world where pre-nuptial agreements undermine nuptial promises and betrayal is more common than bonding. We have, in many ways, I’m afraid, lost trust.
I’m not saying that we should live without a reasonable sense of precaution and safety, especially for our children. I’m not saying that we pretend all is well when it is not, or that we remain blind to the evil that manifests itself in such ugly ways in our world. But what I am saying is that this is no way to live; it’s no way to prepare for death. When fear has replaced trust then we can no longer live; we simply exist.
I am around a lot of dying people; it’s kind of an occupational hazard. One thing I’ve learned from dying people is that what makes it difficult for someone to die is not so much the fear of the afterlife—or even the fear of no afterlife. What makes it hard to face death is that so many people haven’t lived. What I’ve come to know is that the only way to prepare for death is to not quit living. And the only way to live, really live, is to trust.
I was watching an interview some years back, of a 104 or 106 year-old guy (I can’t remember). But I do remember his response to the interviewer’s question, “How do you account for your longevity?” To which the man answered succinctly, “Don’t die.”