Lasting Words: The Gospel
What good news would you share with the people who will mourn your death?
This is an important question to ask if you, like me, want to plan your own funeral ahead of time. I have no idea when my last day on earth will be – but, I do know that there will be a last day here. That’s why I decided to write the blog post, Preparing to Die in 5 Easy Steps. In my recent posts, I have shared the Bible passages that I want read at my Funeral Mass: Old Testament reading, psalm, and epistle. Now for the Gospel – the Good News.
And, yes, the reading (continue to the end) is about Heaven, about life after death – but… with a twist. The twist is that this particular reading, taken from St. Matthew’s Gospel, helped me to finally understand that Christianity isn’t all about what happens after you’re dead.
Christianity’s focus is about how you live right here, right now. It’s about whether or not you know Christ and have encountered Him in the flesh. In Christianity, having a divine experience, having a living relationship with God, isn’t relegated to the afterlife. Because God is here. God is here among us – right now. Do see him? Are you even looking?
Do you care?
Because, right now, God is living in your neighborhood, lonely, sick, and suffering. God is hoping that you will, as my grandmother might say, “shiv a git” and drop in, even just to say hi. Right now, God is holed up in the corner of a filthy room, having not eaten for two days, her mother strung out and wasted on heroine, waiting for you to knock on the door, to call protective services, or to become a foster parent – to do something.
What are you doing? What am I doing?
Some people think that disabled people like me need religion as a crutch and a comfort. But, even though I seem to be one of the needy ones, I am also called to give – not just to receive. Christianity, in reality, is more of a challenge than a comfort. In fact, if you are comfortable in the living of your Christian faith, then you’re probably not doing it right.
I’m not doing it right, I confess.
We are all sinners in need of a Savior.
But, the good news is that we have one.
And our Savior isn’t far away on some candy sugar mountain waiting for us after death so that he can pat us on the head and say, “That’s okay, you didn’t have to listen to me. You didn’t have to look for me on earth or go out of your way to care.” Nope. That’s not how it’s going to play out. At the end of days, our Savior is going to tell us one of two things.
Either: “I remember you! Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for sacrificing and being brave enough to comfort me, to take care of me.”
Or: “Who are you again? I don’t remember you. I’ve never seen you before. Where were you when I needed someone?”
You’ve probably guessed what Gospel reading I have chosen. And, though some who will hear it at my funeral, whenever that will be, may think that I’m congratulating myself for being a good person, I most certainly am not. This reading is a mighty challenge to me. And it’s something that we all need to hear. I need to hear it so that I may truly seek my Lord and go beyond myself to know, love, and serve Him.
The other reason that I have chosen verses from Matthew 25 is that they make me think of a man named Dan and a woman named Francine – my parents – and the care that they give to me, day in and day out, literally feeding me and clothing me, taking care of me because I cannot take care of myself. Yes, they generously give because they love their daughter – but, I believe they will be surprised to hear that, all the while, they were ministering to God Godself. Not that I am God, of course! But… well… God is within each and every one of us.
The great blessing that comes through Christ and Christianity is recognizing God in our fellow human beings. Whether it be Mother Teresa washing the wounds of a dying, homeless person or my mom or dad putting my slippers on my deformed feet while I prattle on about one thing or another, we minister to the Divine, we take care of the Creator of the Universe, every time that we help someone in need.
That’s amazing! That’s miraculous. Ferociously challenging, yes – but it is, indeed, very good news.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.
Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
So, let us love one another! At the very least, let us say a prayer for a prisoner; let us not make a stranger feel that he or she is unwanted, unwelcome among us; let us contribute regularly and generously to charities that help the poor, the malnourished, and the homeless; let us ask our elderly neighbor if there is anything that we can do for him or her; let us be patient and forbearing with irritable people and forgiving to and hopeful for anyone who has hurt us. For, whatever we do to the very next person that we meet, we are doing to God.
Love well. Live fully.
(And don’t forget to bug me about my book! 🙂 )
© 2018 Christina Chase
Photo 1 by KE Atlas on Unsplash
Photo 2 by Matt Collamer on Unsplash
Christina Chase View All
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.
This post got me thinking about my own death.
I hope it was a life-affirming experience. Thank you for reflecting with me!
LikeLiked by 1 person
It was. Thank you, stay awesome.
Love this post!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I love this Gospel passage. It helped me not to lose my faith when one evening I started questioning the doctrine of hell. When I cried out for His help, God came to my rescue that night and helped me to see in this reading that He didn’t create hell, I did. It is not that God created the rules and said “I will throw you in hell if you don’t obey my rule about loving.” No, it means that if I don’t love, I will be in hell.
I want to live eternally in the presence of the One who is love – and if I don’t love people now, I won’t recognize Him eternity, even if I’m sitting right at His feet. That would be hell indeed. So it is both essential and our delight to love – if only we can overcome our fear.
By the way, how’s that book coming? Ants, spiders, butterflies, worms, centipedes, grasshoppers, flies, bees, moths…am I bugging you enough?
That really did make me Laugh Out Loud!!! Thank you for all of the wonderful bugs – I’ll be finishing up my first draft right after I send this reply! (More on that in tomorrow’s post.)
Those are beautiful thoughts that you share on hell and the eternal reality of love… well worth rereading and thinking over. Thank you for reflecting with me! Pax Christi