Friday was an interesting day. In the afternoon, I went to a funeral home for the viewing of a gentleman who died in our parish.
Something happened while he was participating in a triathlon, and he died. By all appearances, he was in top shape. He left a wonderful wife and a young son. Just tragic. I pray that the angels led him to paradise, the martyrs greeting him on the way to the heavenly Jerusalem.
As I was driving home, I was really thinking. This man was younger than me, in better shape than me, and yet he was dead. I thought back to my recognition of my own health issues a few years back, and I was very grateful that I made the changes I did. Of course, I need to do a lot more, and it’s hard to stay in maintenance mode. But, you have to take care of yourself, body, mind, and spirit.
Two hours after leaving the funeral home, I was in church to see a young couple become husband and wife. It was a wonderful wedding, and it was great to see a young man who I’ve known since he was in the 7th grade so happy. I wish them many beautiful years together. Again, driving home I got to thinking. What makes a great marriage? How can two people support each other body, mind and spirit?
I think the key to both these circumstances, one tragic, the other joyous, is to live a life of holiness. Strive to be a saint. Did you know most of the saints had checkered pasts? It’s true. Mother Theresa used to say, every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. Perfect. It doesn’t matter so much where we’ve been as to where we’re going.
Conversion, or turning away from a life of sin and to a life with God, can come quickly to some people, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. For most, however, it’s a slow and sometimes painful life-long process. It is, however, a process worth undergoing. Eternal consequences hang in the balance.
I was about twenty the first time I saw Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. Of all the images that are portrayed in this masterpiece, the one above, of a man condemned, was the scariest. Just look at his face. He must be thinking, what on earth have I done?
Friends, we all want to make it to heaven one day. Striving to live a life of holiness, one of turning away from sin and towards God, a life lived to the fullest, with all the joys and sorrows that are part of the human condition, is the kind of life that will get you there.
When our time comes, whether we are young or old, I pray that we be found ready. Our perseverance paid off. It was worth the fight, and we have won the race. Isn’t that worth striving for?