At eighty-one years of age, I think often of three things: The regrets of my life, the joys I have known, and finally, my death.
I regret my authoritarian attitude with wife and children—my temper and anger, my impatience and self-centeredness, my foolishness in thinking that acting holy made me holy.
It hurts deeply to recall these things—but I do recall them because I must. On the bright side, remembering also reminds me that God was with me and mine. I have learned the power of words and actions. They can caress or hurt, or build up or tear down. My world was beginning to become transformed.
Our good God has healed hurts and strengthened bonds.
That’s easy: my God who is all good, just and merciful; my wife, Peg (who is so very good), and our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; my parents and grandparents and all uncles, aunts and cousins; friends who are brothers and sisters in the Lord; the gifts which God has so freely blessed me with the ability to see, listen and think; my Catholic faith, given to me by the Holy Spirit in baptism; my life in the service of the Church which began when I was only twenty-five years old; sunrises and sunsets; rain and wind; birds in the sky and birds pecking away on our feeder. Need I go on? Yes, the very air I breathe and every breath I take and every beat of my heart.
In my youth, I rarely thought of my own death. There was a sense of immortality—an innate sense that life cannot end.
In middle age, I was shocked to realize that I would, indeed, die. I could not grasp the fact that I, so precious and important, would have to leave the world to its own designs. What could God be thinking?
I finally had to admit that I feared death because I was not ready to die. So, I lied to myself, “I’m not afraid of being dead; I’m just afraid of the process of dying.”
I shared this wisdom with my spiritual director and he asked his proverbial question: “Why?” Why was I afraid of the process of dying?
“Because I can’t control it,” I said through gritted teeth and, suddenly enlightened, my world began to change.
As time went on, I grew in faith (and I hope, wisdom) and focused on eternal life—on the everlasting life of love, joy and freedom from all worries and pain, an unending life with all my loved ones, in peace and joy.
Now, so many years later, I’m beginning to think of being, first of all, with our God. I relish the mercy God has for me. I rejoice in Jesus Christ and, in him, my life as a son of the Father. The Holy Spirit is a great Comforter; and more, the Holy Spirit teaches leads and guides me.
I have grown in my love for God, my family and, of course, my God-family: everyone who loves and serves the Lord.
Especially, I love and treasure our parish church. Yes, it is the house of God and our Lord dwells there in the Holy Eucharist. But I love and treasure our church because it is home. It is there that I gather with my brothers and sisters, all sons and daughters of the Father, all disciples of the Lord Jesus, all vessels of God’s Holy Spirit, nourished by our Lord and sent out into the world.
And it is in this, the complexity of life embraced in love and trust, that we transform our world—the “world” of our own heart and our own family, and all the peoples of the world so loved by our gracious and holy God.