The spectre of Death hung heavily these last days: car accidents, murders, disease. It lingered and awed even the most confident with cruel ferocity. There was no denying its danger or its glaring demands or the powerlessness beneath its unflinching gaze. And so, the pain of the bereaved knows no boundaries, no limits, and plumbs a depth beyond all imagining. The dullness of awareness eventually appears: life itself, living and breathing, is known in a whole new way, one silhouetted by Death’s theft. Among us, the aging have met Death’s contours before; for them, each loss is met with each of the previous ones, and the moment has a stage of players with patterns and prompts. The young, though, meet the acuteness of agony in unforgettable encounters, thrust into the circle of loss without warning. And so Death has its day and Life, though changed, staggers again to full stature. There, in that unfamilair space, how to live the next hours, days, months and years somehow becomes so much more compelling than ever before.
Luke 6, the Gospel for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, offers counsel in key phrases.
“love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.…
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you..”
Disguised as verbs, the advice is tantamount to actions that dare deepen Life’s meaning and define its purpose: LOVE, DO good, BLESS, PRAY, STOP judging and condemning, FORGIVE, GIVE. Practicing all that, choosing to love and do good, to bless and to pray, means embracing attentiveness to all that exists. It is about interacting with the world around us with authenticity, with honesty and a sense of truth. It is about choosing not to defile the brevity of life by making it even more difficult for self and others. It is about monitoring our lesser selves and striving for a kindness that is not actually beyond our reach. Believing we can be kind and then, simply, doing it makes a difference for self and for others. Our lives, lived as they are in the increments of time, still bear the possibility of becoming more, of being better, of navigating the obstacles with heartfelt intentions and shifting from strength to strength. There is nothing easy about that, nothing at all. But then, Life is complicated and difficult, only punctuated by joy and celebration, and finally humbled by the spectre of Death. Life, in each awakening, in every dawn and sunset, begs us to love, to do good, to bless those who curse us and to pray fro those who mistreat us…to begin to stop judging one another and to forgive, to dare to forgive. Death’s larceny hones a profound understanding of the breviy of Life. No matter how short or how long, what matters is what we do with our lives and how we respect the lives of others.