BY: Fr Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today the First Letter to the Thessalonians tells us: “Let us stay alert and sober.” This is a strong message at the end of the Church year and as we think of the end of the world and of our own personal death. We should not fear the end of the world or our own personal death. Most likely the world will not end in our lifetime, but we do not know that. On the other hand, we can be completely confident that we ourselves shall die. True life is always living toward death.

The first reading today comes from the Book of Proverbs, which is part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. The selection today tells us the value of a good wife. In reality, the good wife is a model for all of us, women or men. Such a person brings good and blessings to all others, knows how to do things wisely, knows how to work, know how to care for the poor and knows how to care for her husband and her family. One of the points of this reading is that physical beauty can be deceiving and what really counts is beauty of character. The wife in this reading is clearly a person who knows how to use and invest her talents in the realities that will last forever. She know how to live towards death with all that truly matters.

The second reading is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians and addresses directly the end of the world. No one knows what that day will happen. It will come like a thief in the night. On the other hand, we should be prepared each day as though it will happen today. This kind of thinking is not meant to scare us but it is meant to keep us aware that we must be prepared. Just as the wife in the first reading seems always prepared for whatever happens, so also we must be prepared for all that happens. Even at this very moment, death could be coming to me soon—but probably not. It is that “probably not” that allows us to forget death and to live as though death and what is beyond it do not exist.

One of the remarkable aspects of aging is that people come face to face with the reality of death. Some of us struggle in every way possible to stay young and to pretend that we are young. Others of us seem to embrace getting old, sometimes before old age has even come upon us. For most of us, getting older is simply a part of living to be accepted. The point of the reading today is that part of getting older is being prepared to die and to meet the Lord. We need to ask ourselves: “Am I ready to meet the Lord right now?” If I am not, then I had better begin the work to prepare myself!

The Gospel today, from Saint Matthew, tells us about how to live. Each of us has been given a personal life. Each of us has been given gifts and talents and capacities. What do we do with them? Are we truly living? Do we use our lives for others? Do we seek to be faithful to what the Lord asks of us?

Fr. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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