It’s no secret that dying is a law of life for all of us. We have to die to the stage we’re in, in order to go on to the next stage. The infant has to “die” to infancy in order to become a child; the child must “die” in order to become a teen; the teenager must “die” to become an adult; the adult must “die” to become an older person; and the older person has to “die” to enter the true fullness of life that God holds for them. In every case, it’s dying to enter a new way of living.
Saint Francis of Assisi often spoke of “Sister Death.” For him, death was a natural part of life. It wasn’t to be feared. He “befriended” death. In our transition to eternal life, nothing is lost. Rather, as Jesus promised, we shall have life, life in abundance.
I heard it said that parents are like a big inner tube, keeping the family together. And after the second parent dies, the children need to be very intentional, to decide clearly that they want to stay close. It’s good to share this with your children, along with your hope that they do stay close to one another.
Most people journey from single to married to parents to empty nesters to grandparents. In each stage, we want to give God and our loved ones the very best we can.
Jesus promises, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b). He intends abundant life for us, both here and hereafter. He gives us every day more graces than we can possibly accommodate. Where is God calling you to embrace more fully His abundant life?
Remember when Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth? They rejected Him! They confined Him to their past experience of Who He was, just a boy growing up in their hometown. But for Christ, and for us, we are not determined by our past. God’s mercy and love make us new. Change, new life, is always possible. Be open to that in yourself, and welcome and affirm it in others as well. God is alive—while we draw breath, He continues to bring us new life.
One of my favorite Scripture verses is Philippians 1:6, which reminds us that the God who began the good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. Isn’t that wonderful? It reminds us that God, not ourselves, initiated the work of salvation within us, and that of course it’s not completed yet, so be patient and keep being faithful to Him!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the bedrock of our faith in eternal life. In his 1999 Letter to the Elderly (#15), Saint John Paul II said Christ “…is the first witness of eternal life; in him human hope is shown to be filled with immortality. ‘The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality.’” (See Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.)
Don’t you love our belief that we are made in the likeness and image of God? Of God! I think we all underestimate the incredible person we truly are in the eyes of God. Saint Catherine of Sienna had a vision of a person surrounded by a bright light. She said to Jesus in her vision, “That must be one of the greatest saints of the Church!” Jesus said to her, “No, that’s just an ordinary Christian being bathed in the love of God.”
Saint Bernardine of Siena makes this gracious observation: “In the aged is prudence because they have had experience, and have fallen many times and then walked more steadily… And most of all they find themselves in that age which is nearing death. They thank God, moreover, that they did not die in their sins, and that they have had time to return to Him.”
There’s something timeless just in “beholding”—looking intently at the wonder of a baby’s face or the glory of an evening sunset. It’s not just passive—that beholding involves us, thrills us. Imagine what beholding God for all eternity will be like.
I love the quip, “At seventeen, I thought my dad was the dumbest person who ever lived. By twenty-seven, I couldn’t get over how much he had learned in ten short years!” I think that’s the way it is with our relationship with God for lots of us. Early on, we think we’re in charge, setting the agenda. But as we age, we realize we don’t go to meet God on our own terms, that the initiative always comes from God. And we learn to thank God for that and to surrender to His perfect plan for our lives.
It’s true we are bodies, which age and even deteriorate as bodies do; but we are also spirits, which will never age or die. In that lies our hope and our joy.
Jesus says to the woman at the well: “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). That’s a great invitation to us, to ask God every day to give us the “gift of God” that He has ready for us this day.
There’s a wonderful word: “Incommunicable.” It means each person contains an enclosure of his deepest person. Even if we want to, we can never fully communicate the deepest part of who we are. It is in this place of solitude where we meet Our Lord. It is from our depths that God meets us.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). God is the source of our lives and of the energy we need to live it! He gives us the incentive to live life fully, and the enthusiasm to enjoy the living of it. Don’t “do” life without Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit “strips” us as we age. He strips us of any false images we have of ourselves. As we’re stripped of our power and strength, God draws us closer to Himself. We grow in humility. We recognize how completely we need Him. Our faith deepens. This is a time of great grace.
Sometimes I think of our lives as a building, held up with supports. As we age, those supports gradually fall away. Position, power, success, and the good opinion of others who are impressed by those things. But as each support goes, God comes in. Eventually, we are a building (a life) totally dependent on the always reliable One—our Lord and God.
My mom had both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis. On bad days she’d say, “I can’t wait to get to Heaven and get my glorified body!” That’s a hopeful thought, isn’t it? As we get the aches and pains of aging, that “glorified body” looks more and more attractive. I love to imagine my mom doing cartwheels in Heaven.
Romans 5:5 says, “…hope does not disappoint.” It’s true. Our hope is for Heaven, an eternity with God, but in this case it’s a hope anchored in Jesus Christ, Who promised us, and Who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
A good Thanksgiving question for us is this: “Are God’s great gifts to me serving to draw me closer to Him, to surrender my life ever more totally into His hands?” The gifts are intended to bring us to the Giver.
What can we bring with us to Heaven? Saint John Chrysostom says only that which we have given away! Be it material things, or our love, or our kind deeds, or our acts of charity—he says this is all we’ll be able to take to Heaven with us.
“The days go slow, but the years fly by.” It’s a cliche, but it’s true, isn’t it? Yet both our days and our years are filled with the presence of God. May we always live in that presence.
We’re not Pollyannas. We know that sin, evil, and death are real. But they can all be overcome. In Christ’s Resurrection, they all, even death itself, have been conquered. So we claim the protection of the Resurrected Christ.
There’s a big difference between human hope and Christian Hope. Human hope thinks I can handle it myself. Christian Hope is based on Christ’s promises, His fidelity to us. With God, all things are possible.
One of our privileged tasks is to pray for those who have died. Have a Mass offered for them. Pray for their souls. The souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves, so think of their gratitude to us when we meet them in Heaven if we have been praying for them!
We cannot save ourselves. But God can and does save us. He takes us by the hand and takes us to His Kingdom. As the Psalmist says, “…his compassion is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9, RSVCE). If, God willing, we get to Heaven, it will be because of the merciful love of our God.
A priest friend of mine was in a grocery store in Jerusalem. He heard a little boy crying out in the next aisle, “Abba! Abba!” He was crying out for his daddy—He couldn’t find him. That’s who our God is. He’s our “Abba,” our beloved “Daddy.” That was Jesus’ name for His Father. And that’s our name for Him as well.
Saint Bernardine of Siena had a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. It’s a wonderful spiritual habit for us as well. During the course of your day, just say often, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” There is power and protection in that Holy Name. Use it especially in times of temptation. Satan flees at the Holy Name of Jesus.
Good advice: Pray as if all depended on Christ; work as if all depends on you. It’s true. Only Christ can save us, but He does need our “buy-in,” our cooperation.
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