Good afternoon everyone. I hope this posts finds you all well. I think about you all often as I continue to pray that we will all dig down deep and remain strong as we persevere in self discipline with our Covid isolation fatigue while heading into this long winter. So this month of October 2020 I will get off the Covid topic for a bit as I share a little bit of MJ’s “food for thought” surrounding a wonderful message from a pastor named Fr. John. Fr. John was asked to preside over a funeral for a long time childhood friend who he knew well.
He gave what he thought was a eulogy both respectful to the faith he represented while remaining considerate to the different beliefs that existed between them. His friend was a good natured rebel and this pastor’s words highlighted the good things they shared and the hope that they would one day meet again in heaven.
After the funeral he encountered criticism from folks who thought this fellow had many faults, and that this pastor was too generous in his kind words about this man and that he should have taken this opportunity to warn people about the consequences of sin rather then hope in God’s generous mercy.
These exchanges caused Fr. John to question his tribute to his friend. Did he exaggerate God’s generous mercy that was available to his deceased friend? Should he have focused more on a lifetime of struggling with faith over a few final moments affirming it?
He recalled one of his spiritual directors in the seminary cautioning him about offering to many sweets in talking about God’s generosity and not enough vegetables. That while it’s important to talk about the sweetness in sharing God’s love and mercy, it is also necessary to undertake the unpleasant work of regular repentance.
Sometimes living out our faith can seem like forcing us to eat healthy food our whole lives so that we can have sweets in the end. Some folks may think they can enjoy a life of pleasure and then offer a quick confession of faith at the end to be assured of their acceptance into heaven.
Eating vegetables and sweets regularly throughout life complement each other by providing a greater sense of purpose and value as a contrast to each other. We need the hope that moments of great inner peace brings us though our faith to help us through the more mundane routines of life.
Jesus gives us lessons in living as dutiful helpers as well as offering His unconditional love and freedom by His mercy. But is it possible to have one without the other? Can we just show up on our deathbed and ask for mercy after a lifetime of refusing it to others or for ourselves? How do we really know the answer?
These answers no doubt come, not through religious debate but only from our own personal relationship with God.
The work God calls us to isn’t just a lifetime of service to others as much as it is an acknowledgment to the one in charge. When we humbly acknowledge that God is the sole owner of the life we inhabit, then our reward is forthcoming.
Jesus does offer the same freedom to those who show up in the end who repent and come to believe as those who have believed their whole lives. That’s what unconditional love is all about and that’s what God’s infinite mercy offers us. Instead of eating vegetables their whole life while awaiting sweets, they receive their reward of heaven after a quick taste of it in the end and acknowledging its goodness.
While receiving the benefits of God’s mercy at the end of our life does guarantee us that whoever believes will be rewarded, it doesn’t assure us of how we will feel about the work that was done to receive it. While the destination of eternal life in heaven is the same for us all, the experience of being there may reflect how we got there.
In heaven, we will all be able to experience God’s love and mercy in a more intense way and the desire to share it with others will no doubt be stronger. Some folks will be more grateful for having been able to live it and share it on earth and others more grateful for being forgiven for the times they resisted or denied it but we all have to eat some veggies before we get there. May you all share in the love and mercy of God, now and forever. Thank you Fr. John for your profound perspective. Stay warm, dry and safe everyone and enjoy this rare opportunity of isolated time this winter to strengthen the relationships in your lives.