Gospel reading for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 25:1-13
To me, this reading is about being ready to meet Jesus – many years from now, five years from now, maybe even tomorrow. I don’t think any of us will ever be perfectly ready, but I think there are some things we can do that may help. We can love God through the way we love and serve others, and appreciate the life He has given us. Do what we’re meant to be doing in a mindful way. And take time to be still and look around.
I often forget how fragile we are and how fleeting life is. In college, my best friend Amelia gave me a little book called “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” In it, Anna Quindlen writes that “knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us.” That “this is not a dress rehearsal, and… today is the only guarantee you get.”
Amelia (see above) is really good at this – at joyfully being present – even in her current reality of being a mom with three kids. I can be really bad at it. I am frequently distracted and off in my own thoughts, or I busy myself doing really insignificant things. So today I made an effort to try to be better at living the moments. I lived a day like I was dying.
Now obviously I had to be realistic. If I truly lived like I was going to die tomorrow, I’d get everyone I love on a plane and fly them to Reno. Then together with the people I love who are already here, we’d go somewhere outside and beautiful – in the rich world God created for us. Maybe Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness, Mt. Rose meadows, or a quiet spot along the Truckee river… and then we’d just be there.
We’d eat together, laugh together, love… And every couple of hours I’d ask a priest to celebrate Mass for us, right there in that beautiful spot. Because I’d want Jesus there with us, too, in every way and all ways. If I could make a day like that happen, I think I’d be okay with dying tomorrow. Or, I’d just want to repeat it over and over again.
I couldn’t actually make that happen today. So I thought, how about if I try to live like I know I’m going to die in a week or two?
Here’s what happened. Vincent of course still threw a couple of temper tantrums, which I found very annoying. But I loved him through it and tried to notice the good things, like the way it felt when he finally calmed down and let me hold him. At one point I messed up and yelled at him, then said I was sorry and asked him to forgive me. I went to lunch with some girlfriends and noticed how pretty their smiles were (and how frequently one or more of them was smiling – nearly the entire time!). I internally forgave some people for giving me what I thought was a judgy glance for letting Vincent order a chocolate waffle for lunch. And I took the time to actually taste my food rather than just shovel it in.
I looked at the sky every chance I got (but that’s not new – I love the sky). Watched a leaf gracefully fall from the very top of a sycamore tree all the way to the ground. Felt the sun. Took every opportunity I could to laugh. I got outside with my son and I actually played with him, rather than standing near him and texting. And then I jumped on the swing and swung as high as I could. When I picked Lucy up from school, I noticed the way the sun shone on her hair as she bounded towards me. And I paid attention to what she had to say.
When my husband came home, I thanked him for going to work so that I could focus on being a mom and (for the most part) do whatever I want all day. I don’t tell him thank you nearly enough. At the end of the day, we went to a CFA society dinner with interesting people and lots of conversation that I didn’t understand. But I tried my best to bring joy and light into the room, by focusing on friendship rather than finance every chance I got.
I had to do plenty of humdrum things today, and not every moment was memorable. But it was a good day. I made some progress on being present, appreciating little things, and loving God and the people in my life by paying attention to them.
When I meet Jesus, I hope that it happens at a time in my life when I’m living mindfully rather than mindlessly, and full of love, not fear. And that He sees in me a generously grateful heart, rather than a selfishly entitled one. Living like I am dying is one way to help me get there.
I really hope I don’t die in a week or two. But I kind of like the way my day goes when I remember that it’s a possibility.