Monday, August 12, 2013

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori



“You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

 – Luke 12:40

Several years ago I had a dream. It was an incredibly vivid dream. It was about the end of the world.

I was in a house busy with nothing in particular. Suddenly there was a loud noise outside, almost like a siren. In fact, if you’ve seen the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds it was similar to the horns that the alien tripods used. I went outside to see what was going on. The house was on a hill in the middle of a green field. The sky was nearly cloudless a bright blue like a mid-summer’s day. As I went outside I looked up at the sky and suddenly I saw it being peeled back like someone peeling an orange. As the sky was being ripped open, it revealed a bright almost perfect golden light flooding in from behind it. I knew immediately that it was the Second Coming, the return of Jesus, the end of the world and Judgment Day. I felt immediate conviction and remorse for my sins and fell on my face. Then I woke up.

In Sunday’s Gospel (19th Sunday of Ordinary time) Jesus issues a warning to his disciples, “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” It is a call to vigilance and preparation. No one knows when the end will come. As my grandfather used to say, “The end of the world comes for somebody every day.” We cannot know when Christ will return, nor can we know when we may come to the end of our days. One thing is certain, that we should be living our lives in such a way that we are prepared to meet the end at any moment.

There’s a Latin phrase, tempus fugit, memento mori. It means, “Time flies, remember your death.” We don’t like to think about mortality and death. In a way it is ironic that so much of our culture is given over to the Culture of Death, yet that very culture does all that it can to avoid the topic. I suspect that one reason we try to avoid the topic of death is that it conjures up notions of accountability. When faced with death we are compelled to examine our lives and consider our virtues and vices. We ponder how we have lived and loved, what we spent our time and treasure on, and the choices we wish we could revisit. Believers and unbelievers alike typically go through these same reflections. We all recognize the face of our mortality as the great reckoning of our lives.

As Catholic Christians we profess every week at mass that we believe Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” We confess this truth with our lips, but find it so hard to allow these words to mold our conduct. The Church speaks of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. We convince ourselves that these are far off concerns for another day, but Jesus warns us that we must consider these as imminent. Do we truly believe that we could witness Christ’s return within our lifetime? Do we consider that it could happen at any moment? What impact would that have on our lives if we took the words of Jesus to heart and began to live our lives in such a way that we were ready to meet him at any moment?  Would we be more resolute in loving and worshiping God? Would we make more of an effort to love other people? Would we hold onto material things with open hands rather than clinched fists? Would we allow the love of God to penetrate our hearts and transform our lives?

In conclusion, consider the words of St. Clare of Assisi, whose feast day was August 11th:
"We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others."

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