I am scheduled to die on Saturday night.
Or more precisely, the character I play in an upcoming mystery theater production will be murdered (thankfully, off-stage. No dramatic ‘death scene’ for me!)
Who’s the culprit? For that, you’ll have to take in our parish’s first-ever dinner theater production—an audience-participation event featuring the world-premier of ‘The Case of the Deadly Placebo’.
It’s an odd thing, though, to have the opportunity to contemplate one’s death. For most of us, it’s wise to heed Jesus’ teaching that we must always be prepared…because you don’t really know when the end is near: ‘At an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’
And the longer I live ‘among the saints’ in my parish community, the more deeply I come to appreciate how the body of Christ does in fact help to keep me…and keep us…prepared.
Just this past Wednesday, we lost one of our brightest lights—dear Dee, a woman who lived all of her 86 years right here at St. Joe’s. Dee’s loving and generous spirit was legendary in these parts: 70 years as a member of the choir; decades of Lenten Fridays spent in the kitchen working our Fish Fries; untold hours spent preparing and serving luncheons for families of the deceased; not to mention, an unbroken streak that may go down with the likes of DiMaggio and Cal Ripken Jr.: 79 consecutive years of service as our annual Sausage Suppers.
And here’s the thing about Dee: She lived well – and vigorously – right to the end. I’ve been told that she suffered a stroke while working at the food pantry for our sister parish in Wellston.
Which is to say, she probably didn’t see death coming on Wednesday. But I also have no doubt that she was prepared: I’d seen her at 6:30 Mass that very morning; and I’d received the Body of Christ from her the day before, when she filled her regular ‘Tuesday’ slot as an extraordinary minister.
Dee was prepared, in part, because she stayed connected to the body of Christ—her parish community. She made it a point to walk ‘among the saints’ every day—lifting us up with her real presence, and allowing herself to be lifted up by the love and community she experienced at St. Joe’s.
Certainly, we are remembering the loved ones who have gone before us. But we are also ‘going to school’ on them, don’t you think?
We know all too well that the beloved people in our lives are not perfect. Yet we also know that they do, in fact, embody holiness in an undeniable way. We see how they show us the face of Christ…how they are energized by the Holy Spirit.
Their lives are witness. A witness that encourages the rest of us ‘saints’ to be ready…and to keep going.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.