Sunday, February 7, 2010

No One Makes It Out Alive - Death & Gratitude

I was listening to Reformed Minister Steve Brown talking on the radio the other day, and he said something great and unexpected. A caller asked about 2012 and if it would be the end of the world, and oddly, Steve Brown started to tell a story about St. Francis of Assisi and how he answered when asked what he would do if today was the day Jesus was returning -while working in his garden- St. Francis replied 'keep working in my garden'. The best part was what Brown said next, something to the effect of "listen, I have news for you, we're all going to die, none of us are making it out of this alive, whether Jesus comes back today or not".

I told someone the other day that Jesus had the answers for all my questions in life. But perhaps of equal importance, he has the questions that I should ask myself to understand the meaning of life.

One such question I have asked myself over and over again this year and pondered many times is his question:

"For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" - Matthew 16:26 Douay-Rheims (quid enim prodest homini si mundum universum lucretur animae vero suae detrimentum patiatur - Vulg.)

Today I was flossing for the first time in months - I'll put my confession out there, I have terrible oral hygeine - and I began to remember all the dark omens the dentist told me last time I visited about the consequences of my negligence and all the horrible remedies he had (usually involving much pain). I'm not trying to make an excuse for my own poor stewardship of my body - Lord knows no lawyer could win me that one. I'm simply stating it to get to a deeper truth - stay with me. So I looked up the gum disease which leads to tooth loss and apparently 30-50% of Americans have a 'prevalence towards it' (whatever that means). After pondering the enormity of that disease (and was comforted as it obviously isn't an epidemic, or deadly, just unsightly), I thought of the enormity of the oldest disease: sin, and it's mortality rate: 100%

My friend and I went to the Traditional Latin Mass this morning and in the austerity of the priests and the near-dead old men and women around us, I realized that death is everywhere. The illusion of youth is invincibility. But one day I - an unfinished human - probably with bad teeth, and too many extra pounds, will breath my last, and this life will be over. Nothing I owned or acheived in this world will matter, in the end my very body will become the food of worms. What will it profit me if I lose my soul? nothing. What will it profit me if I give my soul to Christ? everything.

So perhaps we shouldn't worry about Mayan Calendar's or Tooth Loss, perhaps all of these ephemereal issues are just the smoke and mirrors of the Devil, trying to keep us away from Jesus.

Following this observation on death, I came up with another thought. Is there anything more revolutionary than gratitude? What if I spent my life, looking on all my faillures, and all the tragedies in the world, and against all this was simply thankful. What if I was just grateful, and worshipped the glory and majesty of the Lord, even though everything else went to nothing. Karl Barth (another Reformed fellow) once said that Mozart's music (he was a Catholic by the way) was the greatest testimony to the glory of God in his age; because when all others were trying to figure out the Lisbon earthquake, he wrote magnificent music to the glory of God. I want to be a Mozart, rather than a Voltaire. I want to be grateful, if I can do that, I will have at least in some way been an arrow pointing to the glory of God.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. Gratitude is truly a profound and revolutionary attitude to cultivate, albeit also something that can take a lifetime to master. It changes everything. Life can seem so long sometimes, and we were never promised it would be easy. Quite the contrary.

    Still, obsessing overmuch on our suffering and eventual death is so incredibly pointless. I mean, really, what does whining actually accomplish? When you learn to live outside yourself, though, and be thankful for the gifts you *have* been given then all that darkness tends to fall away.