This past weekend I was considering my own mortality. You see, yesterday was the 32nd anniversary of the death of my second-oldest brother, Ray. Also, a couple days ago was the birthday of my oldest brother, Bob, who passed away just a few weeks ago. It really struck me that the 32-year gap between their deaths really isn”t that big, even though during that time I”ve gone from being a teenager to a middle-aged grandfather. How, in practical terms, do I understand God”s involvement in the relentless progression of time?
So, I really connected with the familiar readings at Mass yesterday. One was from Ecclesiastes (“For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun”), Colossians (“seek what is above”), and Luke (“You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you . . .”)
There were so many things in these readings that really spoke to me. I guess I can sum up my thoughts this way: Life can really beat us up if we lose track of our heavenly prize (cf. Phil. 3:12-15; Mt. 6:25-34; 1 Cor. 9:24-27). Without Christ, life is a cross without resurrection. And further, I”d say that part of life that beats us up is time itself. I may not have understood that when Ray died 32 years ago, but I understand it now.
And the answer? Well, yes, the daily crosses in our lives are real. Suffering is a given. Are we going allow our suffering to be an absurdity, a waste, or “vanity”? Or are we going to truly abandon ourselves to Christ and unite everything in our lives to Him–not just in theory but in the way we live from day to day, even moment to moment?
I think that part of the “renewal of the mind” (Rom. 12:2) that St. Paul is talking about is exactly that–we need to change our way of looking at things that bring us down. Why live as slaves, when Christ came to set us free? When we commit ourselves to daily meditative prayer and frequent recourse to the sacraments, when we seek what is above, then our perspective down here is changed for the better.
Joy comes with the experience of attaining that which we hope for. As Christians, our daily struggles can be a cause of great joy for us. After all, they bring us a foretaste of the fullness of life for which we”re striving.
So join with me this day and every day: Dare to rejoice!