I spend a lot of time in cemeteries. I guess that is an occupational hazard. Over the years I have been in cemeteries many times for the burial of parishioners and loved ones. Every time I walk through the cemetery, I am reminded that our journey here in this world does not last forever. Death will come to each of us. It’s a good opportunity to ask: “How am I living my life.” “What is it that I want to give the energy of my life to?” I remember hearing a person say at a conference I attended many years ago: “Live every day as if it is the last day of your life…..and one day you will be right!” So, as we live each day, to what will you give your life energy? What will be some guide posts along the way? Here are some thoughts.
BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS I heard once, that the best description of a Christian is a person who by their very presence, makes you feel better about yourself and about life. These are the kind of people who speak well of others, who see the basic goodness in the lives of others and who are able to reflect that goodness back to them. That’s really what it means to be a blessing to others.
The truth is that all of us give off energy. Some people give off an energy that is life-taking and toxic. I’m sure you know those kind of people! They are the ones we want to run far from! It's really a matter of deciding what kind of energy we want to share. To be a blessing to others is to be the kind of people that others look forward to being around, rather than the kind of people that others hurry to get away from.
Being a blessing to others is reminding them that they are beloved sons and daughters of God. It is reminding them that they have worth and dignity.
When Pope Francis visited the United States, many people talked about feeling blessed by being in his presence, even if it was just for a brief moment. We may not have any difficulty believing that Pope Francis would have this effect on people, but we may have more difficulty believing that we have that same effect on others. The truth is that Pope Francis was sharing the energy and life of Jesus. He was allowing that life to flow through him to others. And the bigger truth is that Jesus uses us as well to give life to others, to bless others. To be a blessing for others is to allow the love and compassion of Jesus that is in each of us to, to touch the hearts of others.
LEARN TO FORGIVE All of us, in our life journey, will face disappointment. People we love and care for will fail to live up to our expectations. Life will seem unfair and inconsistent. There will be times in our life when we are taken for granted and treated unfairly. We will work hard in our life and seem not to get ahead while others may seem to give little effort to life and yet often seem better off than we are. The people and countries in the world who are the poorest will often face disastrous hurricanes and earthquakes. It can make us angry and this anger can easily turn into bitterness.
We will be tempted to go down the road of asking “Why” questions—”Why did God do this? Why did this good person get cancer? “Why” questions are never very productive. After all, can you imagine getting an answer to a “why” question that would leave you with the sense of “oh now it all makes sense to me!”
Jesus came to live in the world as it is—with all its goodness and all of its terrible inconsistencies. In the act of crucifixion, he allowed the very worst thing in life to happen to him. Rather than responding to it with more anger and hatred, he transformed it and made it a sign of life. Then he told his disciples—”As I have done, so now you must do.”
That’s what forgiveness is all about. It means being able to hold all the good and all the bad that
happens in our life and let it wash over us and transform our lives. It really means having the courage to let the suffering in our life soften our soul. Rather than asking “Why did this happen?” a better question to ask “How is God asking me to respond to this particular situation that is facing me.” In doing this we learn to practice forgiveness—we forgive others and we forgive life for its failures and inconsistencies. We forgive ourselves for the failures and inconsistencies in our life. And we forgive God for seemingly being indifferent to our own hurts. Learning how to forgive is the way to happiness in life. Some have even said that if you really want to be successful in life, you need to learn how to forgive, again and again.
RIDE LIGHT IN THE SADDLE What I have learned over the years is that when we are young, most of our energy is directed toward making our mark on the world. We want to change things and make them work the way we think they should. That’s not all bad, of course. But as we get older, we begin to realize that we control less and less and that we don’t have a lot of power to make anything work out the way we think it ought to be. That’s when we come to realize that life is really more about allowing things to be rather than trying to make things happen. So we ride light in the saddle. We allow life to unfold in front us and we agree to be a part of it. When things are going well, we give thanks. When things are not going well, we give thanks. We recall the words of St. Theresa of Avila who said “let nothing disturb you, let nothing dismay you. All things pass. God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. The one who has God lacks nothing. God alone is sufficient.” And when we don’t think we can endure what life lays before us, we remember the words of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, “courage comes and goes, hang on for the next supply.”