Remember You Must Die

The wise and the foolish virgin *oil on canvas *97 x 77 cm  *1848

32nd Sunday On Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: November 8, 2020

One day there was a large crowd in the doctor’s waiting room.  One elderly man rose and approached the receptionist.  He said courteously, “Madam, my appointment was for ten o’clock and it is almost eleven now.  I cannot wait any longer.  Would you kindly give me an appointment for another day?”

One woman in the room leaned over to another and said, “He must be at least eighty years old.  What sort of urgent business can he have that he cannot afford to wait? The man overheard her.  He turned to the lady, bowed, and said, “I am eighty-seven years old, ma’am.  Which is precisely the reason why I cannot afford to waste a single minute of the precious time I have left.”

Memento Mori.  This is a Latin phrase which means, “Remember you must die.”  In the past, sometimes monks or others would put a skull on their desk as a memento mori, a reminder that they must die.  This was not meant to terrify or create panic or to create fear.  It was to keep them awake, to live this moment fully.  To keep their eyes focused on the Living God.

The parable in today’s Gospel that Jesus presents, you could call a memento mori.  Some of the bridesmaids did not fill up their oil lamps, they became drowsy while waiting for the bridegroom.  So, when he arrived late they were not ready and were left out.  Jesus concludes by saying, “Keep Awake for you do not know the hour or the day.”  In a sense Jesus is offering a memento mori, is saying, “Remember you must die.”

Are we awake?  Are we ready for the coming of God today?

During this Covid time, one effect has been many different conspiracy theories being spread, especially on social media with many of us stuck there.  Unfortunately these conspiracy theories and visions and predictions, leads to fear and are not helpful in genuinely living a gracious life of faith now.

This parable of Jesus was not about being ready for some great end time event, some apocalyptic event that was coming soon.  If that was what Jesus was teaching then this Gospel parable has been useless for the past two thousand years.  Jesus wants us to be awake today, not for some great end time event.  It is about living graciously in this moment, for God is coming to us in every moment, in every day.  Will you be ready, will you be awake to notice the grace of God in your life today?

The Sacraments are all meant to keep us awake for the coming of the Lord not just during this celebration or at some end time, but more importantly to keep us awake for the coming of the grace of God in our daily life.  Our prayer is also not about making God come to us or to be near God.  Our prayer is to keep us awake to notice the presence and grace of God at all times and in all places, always very near to us.

The Lord God will be present and bring grace:

  • while you are sitting at home with your spouse.
  • when you are driving your children to some activity.
  • when you are doing the simplest bit of housework.
  • when you are sharing a meal with friends.
  • when you are quietly at home on your own.

“Remember you must die.”  So be awake, be aware of the presence and grace of God now in this place, in this moment.

Being ready for our death pushes us to look at what needs healing in my life?  With whom do I need reconciliation?  What is distracting me from what matters most in life?

A disciple once turned to his spiritual master and asked, “Why learn something new one week before you die?”

The Master replied, “For exactly the same reason that you would learn something new fifty years before you die.”

Memento Mori:  “Remember you must die.”  So, be awake.  Be ready to recognize the presence and grace of the Living God coming into your life in each moment and in each place.

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Children’s Liturgy (November 8, 2020) With Mrs. Caruso