Grace: To ask that all of my thoughts, words, and actions, be directed to the praise and service of Our Lord
Text for Prayer: Psalm 90
Reflection: Some years ago, a few days after Christmas, I happened to be at a funeral where the priest, during his homily, took out a shopping bag and began by saying, “These days we see many people looking inside these bags and eagerly taking out their Christmas presents. But what do we finally take with us on the last journey? Jim, whom we will bury today, what did he put into the bag to take with him?” I don’t remember much else about the homily other than those two questions, but even today, they continue to make me think about the certainty of death. Death will come for each and every one of us, and when we do die, what will we place in our gift bags or suitcases to take with us? What will the Lord look inside to find and how will he ultimately judge us, based on the lives we have tried to live?
We should not live our lives constantly pondering the prospect of death. That would place us, many times, in a permanent stasis, and might even lead to depression. The young, certainly, do not like to think of death and prefer to think that it is something that they can forget about until they grow old. But regardless of when death may come—and sometimes it can come unexpectedly—we must remember that we will eventually die and come before the Lord, the just judge. He will look at our lives and judge us for our thoughts, words, and actions. In the Gospels, Jesus tells us Himself that He is coming again to judge the living and the dead, and we profess our belief in His coming, every time we recite the Creed.
It is too easy to say that, when we finally do have to stand before the Lord and answer for our lives, He will simply look upon us and have mercy, disregarding many of our sins and failures. He has told us that some will more readily “share their master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23) because they will have followed his example and taken up their own cross to follow Him. In the saints, we have many examples of men and women who heard His call, lived holy lives of self-sacrifice, and now do, most certainly, share in that everlasting joy promised by Him.
This is our hope, too, and so it is good to ask, when we do finally have to stand before the Lord and answer for our lives, what He will find and what will He say to us. If He were to come now—and He has made it clear that we “know not the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13)—what would we want Him to see or perhaps not see? We will die, and how we have lived our lives will affect what will happen to us afterwards. We call to mind our sins and confess them not only to seek forgiveness, but also to remind ourselves that our faults and failures occur within the wider context of our entire lives. When we take our last breaths, we will stand before the Lord, not with a gift bag or suitcase or any other material possessions that we have amassed, but simply with our lives and what we have done and what we have failed to do, the good and the bad.
Imagine yourself, then, standing before the Lord at the end of your life. Converse with Him and listen for what He might tell you. What will He see? What will you have done with your life? What will have pleased Him? Where will you have failed and will you be ready to acknowledge those failures or will you wait for Him to point them out to you?