Monthly Requiem for departed SSJE brothers – July 10, 2014
Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servants of the Society of St. John the Evangelist who have died in the month of July; and we pray that, having opened to them the gates of larger life, you will receive them more and more into your joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past, they may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Today we remember the departed brothers of our Society who, over the decades, have died in the month of July. We cherish these archival memories of our predecessors. In this life we are all terminal. There’s no guarantee that any of us here will even make it through the day. We are alive today – all of us here – because God has breathed life into us for as much as one more day to know God, and to love God, and to serve God. At the end of the day, each day, tonight, pray a prayer of completeness for how God has entrusted you with your most amazing life. Pray your thanksgiving to God, as if this is your last day on earth. And then rest in peace. Do that tonight. And if you wake up tomorrow morning – no guarantees! – be wide-eyed with amazement that you may have as much as one more day to know God, and to love God, and to serve God. Don’t presume you’re going to have another day, but if it happens, be delighted because God obviously thinks you’re up to it. Live life as a gift rather than as a given.
The rabbis teach that each of us should have two pockets. In one should be the message, “I am dust and ashes,” and in the other we should have written, “For me the universe was made.” Both are true. Presume that what is glorious in this world and glorious in your own life is just a foretaste of what is to come. That doesn’t mean we should not invest in this life. It doesn’t mean we should not enjoy our life, savor it, be deeply grateful for it; however it is simply a foretaste of what Jesus calls “the food that will last,” the dwelling place he prepares for us for all eternity. I’ll use the language of an art critic: life on this earth is an excellent reproduction of the original. Using the language of the church we say, at death, “life is changed, not ended.” You can feel more than one thing at once. That includes: “this is wonderful,” and “there is more yet.” In a very difficult time, you may need to claim St. Paul’s realization: “for this slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.” Love your life, and when it’s slipping away from you, remember that what you’ve loved the most has simply whetted your appetite for what is to come.
Just shortly before her death, Joan Erikson, who was a renowned artist, and playwright, and a local friend of ours, said that life “can be compared to a piece of embroidery, of which, during the first half of [our] lifetime, [we] get a sight of the right side, and during the second half, of the wrong. The wrong side is not so pretty as the right, but it is more instructive; it shows the way in which the threads have been worked together.” With each passing year, we see more of the back side of our life’s embroidery; we and others get a fuller view on our life. The back side reveals the truth of our making, which is as God has known us all along. Today, live it up. Live it up!
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