By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
As the curtain dropped in the late afternoon nearly two weeks ago when we fell back an hour, that sinking feeling arose in me that recurs each year when darkness devours daylight at day’s end. There is that nagging sense that curbed daylight produces. I have the reaction that there is not enough time; it passes too quickly.
Of course, we are grateful for the extra hour with dawns’ arrival, but realistically, it doesn’t open up many practical doors. Without a doubt we sure do miss the daylight at the other end as the practical side of our day for errands and such can be hampered.
Yet, in a paradoxical manner, the darkness can shed light in meaningful ways. In our Church tradition during the month of November, as the darkness settles in, we proclaim in many ways that life indeed is short, and that we have no lasting city here. (Hebrews 13,14) This response is psychologically healthy and spiritually wholesome because life and God place our mortality before our senses, and as a people of faith the Word of God reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3,20) In faith, our time on earth is the prologue to eternal life.
Yet, confronting our mortality is not easy, because the strongest natural drive that we have as human beings is self preservation and the preservation of those we love. When life is threatened fear and anxiety get stirred up, and we are likely to fight or flee, to lash out or to hide under the covers.
But our faith in the Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, can break through our natural instincts with the peace that the world cannot give. In the Lord’s own words, we hear, “fear is useless, what is needed, is trust.” (Luke 8,50) Trust is possible because the Lord has given us a gift. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” (John 14,27) The peace of the Lord is his grace, his love, the gift of the Holy Spirit which is the foretaste and pledge of eternal life.
This abundant life is what Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Romans as the Spirit of Adoption that leads us from the slavery of fear into the family of God whom we call upon as Abba, Father. (Romans 8,15ff) What greater gift can there be in this life? “Thanks be to the God who has given us the victory in Christ Jesus.” (2Cor 2,14)
There are many in our family of faith, our natural family, friends and neighbors and many others who can teach us about what really matters in life. November and the months ahead can sharpen our spiritual senses to know that “there are only three things that last, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor 13,13)
The saints, especially the martyrs, who inaugurate the month of November, are living lessons of what it means to die to self in order that the mustard seed of the Kingdom can grow in our world. The martyrs had an amazing love for God and for others and an undying capacity for doing the Lord’s work in this world, and yet “their love for life did not deter them from death.” (Revelations 12,11) With Saint Paul, they could say, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1,21) A little dose of this potion goes a long way.
Many in our personal lives are now part of eternity. It is our faith-filled hope and prayer that they are part of that cloud of witnesses who gather around God’s throne. We pray for them, for prayer is never offered in vain, especially for those who continue to be washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb, in the purifying and loving fire of the Holy Spirit. We know deep down that Purgatory is not a place, like our fifty states, but a state of being where sin and selfishness are transformed into the light and love of God.
Since this is an eternal journey in God that already has begun in this life, there is no time like the present, this day, to respond to God’s grace and to follow the Lord more faithfully. Time is precious and is passing for each of us, yet it is embraced by eternity. Our faith and hope inspire the conviction that there is unending life, and that our destiny is to be with God forever.
The Lord Jesus, with great respect, observed the widow in the temple placing her two cents, dos centavos, into the temple treasury, everything she had to live on. We too can only live one day at a time, and we can live it lovingly, generously and creatively when we offer it to God leaving nothing on the field of life. She prefigured the Lord who proceeded to give it all on the Cross, the eternal sign of love.
The passing of time is a constant reminder to live wisely, to embrace the Cross, to die to sin and selfishness each day in order to produce the fruit of the Gospel, to store up treasures in heaven.
For those who are grieving now because of the recent or untimely death of a loved one, especially a child, may our prayer for them be that they grieve with hope, bathed in the peace and promise of Jesus Christ, the firstborn of those risen from the dead.
May we accompany those who are dying with the confidence that what is seen is transitory, what is not seen is eternal. (2Cor 4,18) Through the eyes of faith, may we see beyond the increasing shadows and darkness, that eternity has already begun for us as we follow the Lord who is the way, the truth and the life. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11,1)
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz