February 7, 2019
“What is God calling me to do?”
The Episcopal New Yorker (Official Diocesan newspaper) just sent out a notice that it is looking for authors to provide articles for its next edition exploring the theme of DEATH. The categories are, for any clergy, the “usual suspects” (e.g., ministry to the dying; ministry to the family of those who are dying; preparing funeral rites; death of a child; death of a parent; dealing with long term illness; dealing with tragic unexpected death; and on and on).
What I continue to find so interesting as an observer (and participant) in the human condition as it is lived in this millennium is our deeply ingrained desire to avoid dealing with this topic at all.. Having an issue of a journal totally so dedicated reminds me of just how much we cringe from facing death as an inevitability..
The rubrics of our Book of Common Prayer remind me that at least once (if not more often) per year, my priesthood vows command that I remind people of their duty to put their affairs in order, to make sure that (as much as humanly possible) they will provide for the spouse or other family they leave behind, and also leave gifts to various charities and causes as a final demonstration of one’s commitment to Christ. And I cannot tell you how often in my years as a parish priest, I will encounter some parishioner who will express her (or his) disapproval of even raising this issue. “No one who gets up early on a Sunday morning wants to hear that someday they’re going to die”- this I have been told a number of times. News Flash: Whether we say it or deny it – It’s the truth!
Even for those who profess their faith in life beyond life (“…I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”), there is our fear of the unknown. There is the realization that as we get older, we have left not only a “carbon footprint” but a moral footprint as well. There have been too many unkind things said or actions done that we have not yet fully regretted or perhaps even acknowledged. There have been too many “I should have’s” in my life. And perhaps we wonder (to ourselves if not aloud) whether one can truly be forgiven for all the pain one has caused. On the flip side, there is the anger at those who “sinned against us” and we wonder if there will be sufficient punishment for those who hurt me (or any other innocent soul). Funny how we are very comfortable seeking divine justice on to OTHERS!
And there is that little matter of forgiving those who have injured us. Just how will we be held to account should we leave this life’s journey with hatred for another still burning within? Even if such animosity is deserved! Do we demean ourselves by forgiving too often? Do we become enablers to the abusers? How does leaving an issue like this “in God’s hands” bring justice to those who have no one to care or speak for them? So many unanswered questions!
Lent is still a month away (Easter VERY LATE this year). The reminder in the Ash Wednesday liturgy that we are but “dust” is unsettling. “All we are is dust in the wind…”
So when was the last time you reflected on an event that is heading straight for you? Ready or not: “Sister Death” (as Francis of Assisi referred to this reality) comes for us and will bring us home to a loving and forgiving God – but have we loved and have we forgiven? Have sought to be loved and forgiven? Are we ready for the journey? Or is death a topic never to be addressed except at a funeral of someone else. Just leave me alone and let’s not think about it.
So, anyone want to take up the offer and write for the paper?