Over the weekend, the beloved associate pastor at our parish passed away rather suddenly. In his office they found the homily he had written for Mass on Sunday, and the other priests decided to read it as the homily for each of the Masses. It was so beautifully apropos, and it has been on my mind pretty much ever since.
In case you've forgotten the readings, here's a link to them.
I couldn't possibly cite direct quotes for you, but he had written about preparedness. Death, he said, comes in many forms - slow, sudden, natural, tragic, late, too soon. But no matter what form it takes, it often catches us unprepared. We frequently act as if the Lord waits to come for us until we have our act together, until we've accomplished all we want to accomplish and checked all the items off of all our lists, until we decide that we're good and ready to be done.
We also act as if, since we await the second coming, the Lord is not present here with us now. As if he is delayed in coming and we are living in a world where God is distant, and therefore a world where our actions have no consequence, where the people we encounter are just that: merely people we encounter, and the things we do affect us alone. We act as if God is not present in every. single. thing. that we do and every. single. person. that we meet, and as if the Kingdom of Heaven is not at hand.
And so when the Lord comes, as he inevitably will to each of us, we are caught off guard. And it doesn't really matter whether or not we had a long illness beforehand to give us a heads up.
But what if we were to live every day in the reality of the Lord's presence? If we were to see him with us in our neighbor around the corner or in our family at home or in the cashier at the grocery store, then maybe we wouldn't be so surprised when he came the last time for us. Maybe we won't be so shocked when he comes in glory and everything is brought to light and nothing remains hidden. Maybe we'll be the servants "ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks."
Anyway, this is what I've been chewing on since Mass yesterday. Do I "sojourn in this land by faith" like Abraham? Do I live in the reality of God's intimate presence, nearer to my own heart than even I am? Do I see Christ everywhere around me, in the people I encounter and the things I do? Would I be surprised if he came today? How can I be the vigilant servant? He's pleased to give me the Kingdom; am I as ready and pleased to receive it?
May Fr. Tom's soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.