04 September 2017

Memento Mori


Today's readings:


Quoniam ipse Dominus in jussu, et in voce archangeli, et in tuba Dei descendet de cælo: et mortui, qui in Christo sunt, resurgent primi. Deinde nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur, simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Christo in aëra, et sic semper cum Domino erimus.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

How's your bucket list doing? Got a lot checked off? North Korea just exploded a bomb that world media turned into a veritable Fright Night of clicks and ad revenue.  Al Jazeera literally made it into clickbait with this tweet:


Since I grew up in the Cold War, I'm pretty much over all this stuff: but fear is real. I think some part of the tensions in this country are the venting of the fears we're experiencing just now, although granted our Glorious Leader Don al Trump also scares a lot of folks.

My twitter response to A-J's tweet was three points long. The first is, "Everyone dies".

Literally, everyone dies. Today, tomorrow, sometime in 2050, whatever. Everyone Dies. Personally 18 mins warning as we prepare for Nuclear Evaporation is way better than I don't know, a sudden gunshot, or a car accident, or an earthquake. All of these are likely. Yet I don't walk around afraid of them. But, nukular bomb, thuggee, ninja, gangsta, old lady driver,  or the mother of all San Andreas shatterings, none matters. We're all going to die and share one thing:

There is nothing pretty about death at all.

The breathing becomes labored. The edges of the body, if you will, start to crisp up and die first. The light in the eyes full on and there is terror. Then out. And there is nothing. If you've ever had anything die in your arms... or watch someone pass... it's nothing like a movie at all. How's your bucket list doing?

There is nothing pretty about death.

But God has done it.

There is nothing pretty about death on a cross. Nothing at all.

One of the things that makes me ready to accept the Shroud of Turin as really the burial shroud of Christ is because it's been around through a part of the Church's history when we did not prefer to think of Jesus as a maimed and bloody mess. The shroud shows a man covered in blood; not just blood prettily staining his hands and feet (or even garishly flowing from those wounds) but literally covered in blood. This makes sense if you know anything about the process of being scourged... but I'll stop there.

There is nothing pretty about death on a cross. Nothing at all.

But God has done it.

There's this invocation from the Ninth Petition of The Jesus Psalter: Let the remembrance of Thy death teach me how to esteem my life; and the memory of Thy resurrection encourage me cheerfully to descend into the grave.

That is the Christian Mystery right there: We walk this road neither unscathed nor unchanged, and yet for all eternity though it lead to death and darkness, now it leads to life and light because God walked it himself. The map is the same, the path is unraveled and rewoven. The tapestry undone and repaired.

I heard a sermon yesterday about (among other things) the Satanic appeal to human pride that is this concept of "Death with Dignity" and legalized mercy killings. I will post it when I can. But for now, let's just note: God walked the path, we can't turn aside from the path and say we're following him. We have to walk it through to the end, all the way, without chickening out.

This is dignity because God has done it: this path leads to a known ending now. Let the remembrance of Thy death teach me how to esteem my life; and the memory of Thy resurrection encourage me cheerfully to descend into the grave.

But we all want to Run Away. This fear of death is just more of the usual Fear of Missing Out: what will we miss when we're not here? How's your bucket list doing? 

I'm afraid we are all haunted by our bucket list into thinking that seeing the Pyrenees or riding the Orient Express, making love in the Grand Canyon, or making a pilgrimage to Mall of America are all as equally as important and as valid a goal as getting right with God and persevering until the end to Salvation.

I had a bucket list when I was 29. Oddly enough I've done a lot of the item on it. I feel nothing at all of the sense of accomplishment I imagined I would feel when I was 29. Quite the opposite in fact, I'm aware now of how shallow they were, how pointless, how totally irrelevant all the petty and prideful sins on that list were and are. And they are sins exactly because petty and prideful. Yes, I can say I've done something... that was on that list... but did that something save anyone? Make the world better? Heal the sin-sick soul of myself or anyone else? No.

How's your bucket list doing? We walk this road neither unscathed nor unchanged, and yet for all eternity though it lead to death and darkness, now it leads to life and light because God walked it himself. The map is the same, the path is unraveled and rewoven. The tapestry undone and repaired.

St Paul says hat those of us who are alive will be changed. That those who have gone before will rise first. And that all of us together will rejoice in the presence of the One Who went before us. He is the only Dignity we have - any of us. Even those who reject him are only measured by him, by how much they (unknowingly) reflect his light.

I have climbed Everest, I have seen the moon by standing on it, I have ruled the world, I've cause chaos on three continents by my internet communication skills in an era when those were few and far between. But if I can't meet Christ in the air on that last day, I have failed.

I may have "made the world better", I may have helped a lot of people be "happier" or "more free", I may have done anything and everything that would make someone think "he was a good person."  But if I can't meet Christ in the air on that last day, I have failed.

The rest of the Ninth Petition of the Jesus Psalter:
Jesus, grant me grace always to remember my death and the great account I then must render; that so being kept continually disposed, my soul may depart out of this world rightly in Thy grace. Then by the gracious intercession of Thy blessed Mother and the assistance of the glorious St. Michael, deliver me from the danger of my soul's enemies; and do thou, my good angel, I beseech thee, help me at the hour of death. The, dear Jesus, remember Thy mercy; and turn not, for my offenses, Thy face away from me. Secure me against the terrors of that day, by causing me now to die daily to all earthly things and to have my continual conversation in heaven. Let the remembrance of Thy death teach me how to esteem my life; and the memory of Thy resurrection encourage me cheerfully to descend into the grave.
Throw away the bucket list.
Learn to feed the poor at your doorstep without worrying about those on the next block.
Pray.

I'll see you there, but only if you pray for me to meet you. I totally need your prayers to make this.