Summary: “What are the two most important moments in any person’s life?”
Tuesday of the 5th Week in Easter 2019
What are the two most important moments in any person’s life? In your life? In my life? I’ll come back to these questions–really a single question–in a moment. But first I’d like to point out that as Jesus concludes the long sermon at the Last Supper, He is going to His arrest, trial, torture and execution. But the last words He shares with the disciples is “I give you my peace.” And, although they all abandoned Him–all but John–His first words to them in the same room after His Resurrection will be “Peace be with you.” The words of Christ echo and are the Eternal Word of the Father. God wants only the good for us, even though we have hated Him, killed Him, despised Him. He has only love for us poor fallen human beings. He will take us back into His arms with forgiveness and grace and peace if only we truly repent and ask for that forgiveness.
Now fast forward a decade or so to Paul’s missionary journeys. He is in Lystra, and after healing a man lame from birth by his prayer, Paul and Barnabas have barely kept the pagans of that city from worshiping them as gods. But their Jewish enemies, who followed them from city to city trying to destroy the work of evangelization, worked the crowds up into a frenzy and tried to stone Paul to death. But he miraculously survived to escape and preach in other cities. He was preaching a gospel that nearly got him murdered, but people came to believe in that gospel anyway. Why?
Paul knew that the gospel of Jesus Christ, as lived by Jesus and must be lived by His followers, is radically counter-cultural. Simeon, just after Jesus was born, predicted that He would be a sign that the world would contradict. Paul understood that this is not just a matter of speaking against the Gospel of Christ. The world must oppose it or repent, and the world, even our culture, does not want to do that. It wants to remain selfish, power-hungry, lustful, avaricious. The world is in love with the seven deadly sins and would rather die than accept a Gospel and lifestyle of self-sacrifice, poverty of spirit, meekness, and worship of the True God in spirit and Truth. Thus, the more we resemble our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the more will we be ridiculed, reviled and persecuted financially, politically and even physically.
When St. Paul returned to Antioch, where the Church had commissioned him to preach in Asia Minor, he was able to report both the trials and treasures of his journey. I think part of our commission in life is to imitate Paul and Barnabas in this way. We really do need to tell our friends, and especially our fellow Christians, about all that God has done in our lives, and especially about any successes we have in spreading His Gospel. What this does is strengthen the faith, particularly of new Catholics. Everyone wants to believe he makes good decisions. When others make the same decision, and are happy about it, they are encouraged–all are encouraged.
So this brings me back to my first questions, questions the culture of death would rather have you ignore: “What are the two most important moments in any person’s life?”
I submit that the very most important moment in life is the moment we die. How we live in this life, whom we follow, what we believe in, and whether we have lived a life of Truth and Love determine how we will experience eternity. If we follow the path of faithful obedience, loving God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves, then we will be forever in the loving embrace of the Trinity. If we follow the path of the fool, a path of self-centered existence, seeking only our own pleasure, power and fame, ignoring God and others, we will forever die, that is, be enslaved by Satan in the unimaginable pain of separation from those we ignored. The world would rather we forget what happens after this life, would rather we live this life ignorant of the most important phase of our life which happen s afterwards.
And the second most important moment in life, I suppose you have figured out, is right now. Today we must examine our priorities, our consciences, our current path. Are we living a life of evangelical poverty, fidelity, the obedience of faith? Are we really living in love? If we are, we must pray for the grace of final perseverance, so that our last moment is just a continuation of an existence of faith, hope and charity. If not, we must turn, repent, and ask for Our Lord’s forgiveness, which He has promised to give whenever we ask. Our saint today is Bishop Eugene deMazenod, founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who lived a life of love in the wake of the French Revolution. So we can pray, Saint Eugene, pray for us.