If you knew today was your final day on earth, how would you spend the time you had left?
Would you do anything differently?
Who would you want to talk to? What would you want to say?
Would go to confession to unburden yourself of any baggage you might be carrying?
Are you ready today to meet Jesus face to face?
Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monks encourages they think about their death every day: “Keep death daily before your eyes. This is part of a wisdom tradition. If we realize that this might be our last day, we generally will try to make good decisions about how we are living.”
Father Mychal Judge lived his life this way. The Franciscan friar was as a Catholic priest for 40 years, serving his final nine years as chaplain to the New York City Fire Department.
During his long ministry, Fr. Mychal battled alcoholism and found his sobriety thanks to AA.
He was very well known in New York City for ministering to the homeless, the hungry, recovering alcoholics, people with AIDS, the sick, injured and grieving, immigrants, and those who felt alienated by the Church and society.
A dear friend remembers giving him a jacket as winter was approaching. Fr. Mychal didn’t have a jacket at the time. But on the way home after receiving the gift, Fr. Mychal saw a homeless person lying in the cold and gave it to him. He sheepishly told his friend, “He needed it more than me.”
When anointing a man dying with AIDS -- a man who asked friends “Do you think God hates me?” -- Fr. Mychal just picked up the frail man, kissed him and silently rocked him in his arms.
Fr. Judge was considered by many to be a living saint for his extraordinary works of charity and his deep spirituality.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Fr. Mychal heard the news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. He quickly changed out of his Franciscan brown habit, put on his Fire Department chaplain’s uniform, and rushed to the scene.
He was met by Mayor Rudy Giuliani who asked him to pray for the city and the victims.
Fr. Mychal was spotted by many in the early moments of the tragedy consoling the injured and traumatized, and praying his rosary.
When the South Tower collapsed at 10:59am local time, Fr. Mychal was among those killed by the debris that went flying through the North Tower lobby.
Shortly after his death, an N.Y.P.D. lieutenant found the priest’s body. He and two firemen, an emergency med tech and one civilian bystander carried Judge’s body out of the North Tower, a moment captured in a breathtaking photograph by a Reuters photographer.The Philadelphia Weekly called the photograph “an American Pieta.” Judge’s body was laid before the altar of St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
Fr. Mychal Judge was designated the first official victim of 9/11. 3000 people attended his funeral. His fire helmet was presented to Pope John Paul The Second.
Fr. Mychal Judge’s spiritual lamp was found burning brightly as he met Jesus in the rubble of the World Trade Center.
We Christians are called to live in such a way as to always be ready for Jesus’ arrival.
This weekend’s readings speak of this readiness by highlighting the importance of wisdom. The wise prepare. The foolish do not. And when the door to the wedding banquet is locked, the foolish won’t be allowed to enter.
We are called to always be ready to meet Jesus and live our lives like we could our Savior at any moment.
After all, we know neither the day nor the hour when He will return just as we know neither the day nor hour when our journey in this life will end.
As we come to the close of the liturgical year, our Church turns to Matthew 25. Matthew is using themes drawn from Jewish Apocalyptic literature.
These readings are designed to get us thinking about end times. For our evangelical sisters and brothers, this is a conversation about Rapture and the end of the world. That's not what the Catholic Church teaches. For Catholics, this conversation is more personal. It’s all about becoming our best selves before meeting Jesus face-to-face.
When the Lord comes, all that will matter is the kind of person we are, not what we have achieved or what we have amassed in this life. But who we are and what we’ve done to build up the Kingdom by serving others -- especially the poor and marginalized.
What if we should be caught unprepared, with little or no oil in our spiritual lamps?
is an important question for reflection.
We are called to keep our lamps burning brightly. There are 5 easy ways to do this:
Pray daily and grow in your relationship with Jesus. This is the most important relationship and we should want Christ to be our best and closest companion on this road we call life.
2. Give to the needy.
By serving the marginalized and outcast, you will be building up the Kingdom and preparing for the Lord’s return by being Jesus to others.
3. Examine your conscience.
Is there someone I’ve harmed? Is there someone I need to ask for their forgiveness? Is there someone God is calling me to forgive? Is there something I need to change about myself in order to be better prepared to meet Jesus?
Use the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is a powerful way to unburden oneself from any sinful baggage we might be carrying.
5. Be joy-filled.
We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation.” We have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light. So, rejoice.
True wisdom means living a life centered on the divine, on following God’s will in our lives, on loving God by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Then and only then will we be prepared for the coming of the Lord. Then and only then will our spiritual lamps be burning brightly for Jesus to find us. Then and only then will St. Paul’s words today be fulfilled, and, “we shall always be with the Lord.”
Fr. Mychal Judge wrote a special prayer. I think it’s fitting as we reflect on how best to live our lives as if it were our last day:
“Lord, take me where You want me to go; Let me meet who You want me to meet; Tell me what You want me to say, and keep me out of Your way.”