If you knew today was the last day of your life, what would you want to do? Who would you want to talk to? Where would you want to go? These thoughts came to me as I listened to the radio on my way to work. The station I was tuned into was playing a song which proclaimed that it would be good to “live like you were dying”. And so my thoughts began to race ahead to the many things I would want to accomplish before death: raise a family, travel here and there, and so on. But then it occurred to me: why is death such an endpoint?
In the creed (a summary-type prayer of the Catholic faith), I often mindlessly recite, “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting”. Do I really believe these words, or are they just a “nice thought” if all else fails? Do I believe that I was created, as a physical and spiritual being, to be with God in Heaven for all eternity?
And then it hit me, like a bug on the windshield (who, ironically, experienced death at that moment). Death is unattractive to our human (natural) way of thinking, because it is a limit. It is at death that my will ends, and God’s will is perfectly fulfilled in me. This is a limit to my creativity, my ideas, my dreams, my….my….my. Notice a pattern? I suddenly realized that this selfish pattern of thought was quietly drawing me inwards, instead of outwards. I was abruptly moving away from love of God and neighbor, to a self-centered love of what I wanted. If that is what it means to “live like you were dying”, count me out!
God’s will, although good and beautiful, is so easily relegated to the eternal “tomorrow”; a tomorrow which may never come. In reflecting on this song, long after it had ended on the radio, I realized that I need to live in this frame of mind, but with the will of God as my only objective. Each day has to bring me closer to Heaven, and not closer to my inward desires. It is true that the Lord places desires on our hearts, but that is meant to lead us closer to His will. But “sky-diving” and “Rocky Mountain climbing” are not necessarily part of His big-picture will. I thought about the latter part of the song’s refrain, and this did give me some insight. The artist ended the refrain saying that he gave forgiveness he had been denying. Ah, there it was. Forgiveness. This act of mercy allows me to see that I, like my neighbor, am broken and in desperate need of God’s Divine Mercy. Forgiveness allows me to go outside of my selfish little self, and reach out to another soul in need. That’s why Christ left the Heavens and came down to us; He went outside of Himself, in a manner of speaking, so as to draw us upwards.
And so I was left with one question: if I knew today was the last day of my earthly life, how would I live it? But more importantly, how would God want me to live it? And, besides, why do I have to wait until that “last day” to live like I was dying? Why not live everyday as though Heaven may just be a heartbeat away, when in fact it is just that close! At Mass we come to a mystical nuptial feast, in which Heaven and Earth are brought into contact with each other. The Heavenly Guest comes down upon the altar, and all of Earth rises up to meet Him. It is a moment in which Heaven and Earth kiss, and time stands still. There is nothing on Earth that is closer to Heaven than the Holy Eucharist. When we go to Mass, we are indeed living like we were dying. Heaven is literally reaching out for us, to enfold us already now into the eternal life we live to die for. How will I live today? Precisely like I was dying…dying to be with Him and to perfectly fulfill His will! Hopefully that includes some of the “to-do” things on my pre-death wish list. If it does, may I remember to praise God for allowing His will be brought into perfection in me! Today I will live as though Heaven was to be my new address by the end of the day.