Tonight I went back to mass after a couple of months of being absent, minus Christmas Eve, due to health issues. I had looked over the readings before going and thought that there might be a good message for me. Mostly I was looking forward to returning to my community which I had missed immensely. God, of course, has a great sense of humour and I was deeply grateful to be back soon into the Liturgy of the Word.
I had been thinking about those fishermen who dropped their nets and followed Jesus. They immediately left everything and followed Christ. Jesus calls two more out of their boats and immediately, leaving family and coworkers, they too become followers. Immediately is a key word in Mark’s Gospel. He uses it at least 40 times to show that Jesus must be about his Father’s business–there will be no tarrying. The same is true for those he calls.
The priest however caught my attention by going down a different road. He had just lost his brother-in-law and on his mind was death and dying. He spoke of the Ignatian contemplation where you imagine your own death. What if we were to die tonight or in ten minutes? What would we want to do? Could we do it this week? I ran through scenarios in my mind as I have over these past three years. I have worked on healing broken relationships. I have tried to create memories with people I love. I am trying to keep my eyes more and more on Jesus. I am still slowly putting my affairs in order. I feel more ready than ever to leave everything.
In the hospital, my doctor and I discussed the palliative care program which meant that if I signed papers that I would no longer be eligible for resuscitation. When I was in Emergency I declined. After about a week in the hospital, the question came up again. I told the doctor that I would think about it overnight after listening to her explain scenarios so that I understood what it all meant. At some point, I said I had three things left to do before I could go which now seem silly. I definitely was not leaving everything yet, as I picked up my net and wrapped my hands around it, digging my heels into the sand. Then I looked at that wonderful, compassionate doctor and heard myself say, It really does not matter what you or I think. In the end, if God wants to take me, I am going. If God doesn’t, then I am staying. After a few moments of feeling bewildered that those words came out of me, a strong sense of peace came over me. Bring the papers around tomorrow. I’ll sign them.
Spending time contemplating our deaths changes us. Those word of wisdom came from deep within me and yet they surprised me. I think in that moment I knew I was ready to do immediately whatever my Saviour asks of me. I am sure this will fluctuate in the weeks and months ahead but I will hold those words in my heart and ponder them.
There will always be things to do on this crazy adventure of mine, but I am learning to walk away with freedom more and more. Tonight at mass, the music and the homily assured me that I was indeed learning to let go more and more. I also could feel as I have felt most of this day, a deep longing to follow where Jesus is leading me. I do not want to be sidetracked or distracted. I want to pick up this cross that I have been given and follow immediately to wherever I am supposed to be going and do whatever I am being asked to by this Teacher.
The recessional song was Blessed Be Your Name, a reminder that we are asked to praise God whether we are blessed or not by earthly standards. When the sun shines down or when the road is marked with suffering, we bless God’s name. We are called in both situations to follow immediately, knowing that in leaving everything, we gain so much more.
What do you need to do to reconcile your life before you die?
What is it that you cannot leave immediately?
Teacher, you bid me come and see. May I leave everything to follow you immediately without regret or guilt. Help me to reconcile my life so that I will be free to leave when that moment comes. Amen.