Sunday, November 29, 2015

Homily - 11-29-15


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          When you see these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. Do not let your hearts become drowsy and that day catch you by surprise. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man. 
Luke 21

Advent is a lot like driving a car. We look back through our rear view mirror to where we have been and we look forward through our windshield to what is coming toward us.  We look back by re-reading the old stories about how our spiritual ancestors waited for the coming of the Messiah.  We look forward by re-reading the gospels so that we can be reminded of where we are heading. We wait in joyful hope between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ. We not only wait in joyful hope, we are told to stand erect, with heads raised, We are warned not to take our eyes off the wonderful things God has in store for us, not to doze off and miss the boat. We are told to pray always so as to have the strength necessary to stand face to face before God. 

Students! Here is the bottom line today. No matter how old we are or young we are, our days are numbered and the clock is winding down. We have no idea how much longer we will be here. It has nothing to do with age. Many young people your age and younger die every day through accidents, disease and violence. It is a sobering thought to know that death is always a possibility, no matter how young we are. All we have to do is think back a few short weeks ago. One of our students, Tylar Misbach, was here one day and gone the next! All I have to do is think of two of my students from St. Meinrad a couple of years ago. Fr. Jorge Gomez, age 32, ordained eight weeks, and Seminarian Stanley Kartiuki, age 32, were killed instantly in an intersection in Tulsa by a car that sped through a red light. They were students of mine just eight weeks earlier and both had a a promising life ahead of them as priests.  

Even old people don’t always know when they are going to die. We had a monk at Saint Meinrad who died recently at 108! He wasn't sick, but went to bed one night and never woke up.  I recently anointed three people, one 86, one 96 and one 98. In all three cases, I left their beds thinking they would die quickly. I was convinced that the 86 year old would not last the night. He was spotted at several social functions just two weeks later. One was taken off her respirator to die naturally. She was spotted downtown a few weeks later, in a beaded cocktail dress, to receive an award from the Center for Interfaith Dialogue. One I kissed good-bye, thinking I would see her, next time, in heaven. I called the next day and she was up drinking coffee and laughing on the phone. If you want to die, don’t call me to anoint you!

It was this last one who really taught me what these reading today want us to know. As I said, she was 98. We were talking one day about death and I asked her if she was worried about her future. She answered, in a matter-of-fact way, “God has always taken care of me and I suspect he always will.” She really put me in my place on another occasion when we were again talking about dying. I started telling her all the stuff I was going to say at her funeral. After I finished, she looked me right in the eyes and laughed, “I hope you live long enough to be there!” She had a point! I actually thought that she might outlive me! Truly, we know not the day or the hour.

Students! A good disciple, and I know many of you are seriously trying to be good disciples, a good disciple does not presume he has plenty of time. A good disciple always lives with the end in mind - not in a morose kind of way, but with the idea always tucked in the back of his/her mind. The best thing you can do to prepare to die is to live well now, each and every day, with all the deliberateness that you can muster.  Be “vigilant” and “alert” as the first reading tells us! That means to live “on purpose” and “with purpose.” If you live well, standing erect and your head up, then you will be able to stand confidently before God whenever the end does comes! The great American poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., put it: “Death tugs at my ear and says, 'Live. I am coming.”

How are we to wait?  (1) A good disciple loves God enough to want what God wants! (2) A good disciple never forgets who he is – a child of God. He respects himself and all others, without compromise. (3) A good disciple lives as close to the way Jesus lived that he can! (4) A good disciple is in command of himself. He stands up to his addictions and passions. (5) A good disciple never forgets that, in the end, good will triumph over evil. It’s not up for grabs. It has already been decided. For that reason, a good disciple never gives up. (6) A good disciple lives with the end in mind and knows for certain that that end will be glorious. Therefore, he lives “in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Students! Many of the thoughts in today’s readings were also in our readings from two weeks ago. I have tried not to repeat myself, but I do want you to remember this! God has given you the precious gift of life. Take charge of it and take care of it! Never forget who you are! You are a child of God. Respect yourself and all the other children of God around you. Don’t worry about dying. Worry about living! Live well, one day at a time, and wallow in the peace of knowing that, in the end, everything will be OK!  Last of all, under no circumstances forget that death is simply the doorway to eternal life. This, my friends, is how we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”        


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