Why is life called a great equalizer
Meditation on death during a pandemic
Meditation on death during a pandemic
by Thomas Reese SJ (translated from English by Olaf Winter)
I'm in quarantine because I've had contact with someone who has COVID-19, but I'm not showing any symptoms. Even so, my isolation has given me time to reflect that one day we will all die. We just don't know when. It is easy to ignore death when one is young or in good health, but illness and other disasters force us to recognize our finitude. A pandemic makes it impossible not to think about death.
Death is the great equalizer: it meets rich and poor, famous and humble, powerful and weak, saints and sinners.
In the parable of the rich fool in Luke's Gospel, Jesus tells the story of a wealthy man who plans to build larger barns for his harvest. But God says to him: “You fool, tonight your life will be demanded of you; Then who will own what you have amassed? "And Jesus concludes:" So it goes to one who gathers treasures only for himself, but is not rich with God. "
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus also describes how we are judged after death. "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat," says the Son of Man. And those who were righteous will be resurrected to eternal life.
The Latin "Memento mori" - "Be aware of your mortality!" - was said to the victorious Roman generals so that they would not become arrogant and ambitious. The phrase was picked up by spiritual writers to remind Christians that one day they must appear before the court.
St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order and a great spiritual master, names reflection on one's own death as part of his "Spiritual Exercises". He recommends a series of meditations to help a person to contemplate, to get closer to God and to find out what God wants from us. Ignatius asks the prayer: “If you were on your deathbed looking back on your life, what decisions would you have liked to have made?” This impulse should help the prayer to review previous decisions, but above all to think about future decisions.
Here are some aspects to think about while meditating on death during this pandemic.
First we have to think about the family. Pope Francis says that the most important words in a family are "Thank you" and "I'm sorry".
Given that the elderly are the most susceptible to the coronavirus, call home and say, "Thank you." Thank their parents for all of the sacrifices they have made for you. Be specific about this. It could be your last chance. Maybe they weren't perfect parents, but they tried to do the best they can. If you're a parent now, I'm sure you understand.
Tell them that you are sorry for being selfish, immature and not telling them enough times that you love them. If your parents are already dead, don't worry: they can still hear you.
And, dear parents, give your children a call. The clock is ticking, your time is running out. Let your children know how proud you are of them. How lucky you are that you had her. Tell them that you love them and that you are sorry you didn't make a better parent. Tell your children that they are the best thing that ever happened to you. Tell them when you are gone they will be fine and you will be cheering them on from the heavens.
Then call your friends and those who were important in your life. Tell them how much they mean to you. Thank them for holding up with you when you acted like an idiot or were just plain bored.
And if you're really brave, give a few enemies a call and tell them you're sorry for adding fuel to the fire of your argument. Tell them that you want to heal this wound and that you want to be reconciled. If it doesn't work when you hang up, let go of it.
If you know someone who is sick send them prayers and best wishes. When you call her, be brief; this is about the patient, not you.
And finally, if we can do all of this with the corona pandemic, don't forget that one day we will still die. So let's use the remaining time to make this world a better place by being kind to people and planet earth before we die.
Since I'm in quarantine for a week, I should probably also practice what I preach: My parents are gone and I have no children, but I am grateful to my Jesuit family for their tolerance, camaraderie and humor. I am grateful to all of the journalists I have worked with over the years.
And I am grateful to you, the readers. I am always amazed that someone reads my columns or cares what I have to say. I also thank parishioners who have patiently listened to me as I preach. I apologize for my clericalism and for not having been a better source of spiritual nourishment.
For a Christian, death is never the end. We believe in the resurrection, in the afterlife. Therefore I thank God especially for the life and the beautiful world that he has given us and for his Son who loved us and showed us the way.
The next time you see a beautiful sunset, raise your glass and praise the Lord. And may we all celebrate in heaven.
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a columnist for the Religion News Service and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.]
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