A few weeks ago we lost our mother. She lived a long life of exactly 100 years and 91 days. Her life was full. She left us with very good and happy memories and all of us in the family are grateful for all her love and sacrifices. Truth be told, there was no real sadness among us because whatever our grief was, it was overshadowed by the thought that she was now finally at rest with our heavenly Father. We stand on and believe the assurance of Jesus Christ that His kingdom will come not just here on earth but in heaven for those who love God and live their lives in a way that is a concrete response to the love of God. Yes she loved much not just her family but even beyond the boundaries of the family as other people whose lives she has touched attested during the wake. She did not leave us much, but she gave us a lot of loving memories.
But what does the death of a mother have to do with “Spirituality”?
Death has everything to do with spirituality i believe. In the book titled “The Essentials of Spirituality” written by Felix Adler, the author wrote that spirituality is about keeping in mind the end times. A spiritually-minded person keeps in view the supreme end of life, and as a consequence chooses the path that will bring him closer to the attainment of this end. He avoids the pitfalls in life that would bring him farther from the end goal. He always thinks of the ultimate end. He asks himself constantly when making decisions “Will it advance me or divert me from the ultimate goal?”
For a Christian, the purpose of life is to spend eternity with Jesus Christ. That is the supreme goal. The end of life is union with our heavenly Father. A spiritually mature Christian person therefore keeps this in mind in thought, words and action. He is one who pursues integrity in life, consistency in behavior, and an exemplary way of life because he knows that someday his life which is so short in the context of eternity will end and his only desire is to be with Jesus Christ for all eternity.
“What do I have to do to gain the kingdom of God” a young man asked Jesus. In response, Jesus told him to love God completely and to love his neighbor. And he confidently replied “I have done all that. What more should I do?” Very well, Jesus then told him to sell everything he possessed and give the proceeds to the poor. At this, he walked away sadly. The young man was not prepared to make the choice of following Jesus. He was still too attached to his possessions.
Spirituality demands detachment from the things that will distract us from reaching the final goal. St. Ignatius called this as indifference, a holy detachment to everything. Be it health or sickness, wealth or poverty, convenience or discomfort, victory or loss, what will matter is following the holy will of God. It is in doing so that a Christian will reach his destination. All else are not important.
Death enables a person to have a sharper focus on the essentials. To live as if the hour is to be the last becomes a paradigm of life. To face and accept death becomes the bedrock of one’s spirituality. It can ennoble a person to become a morally high-bred man. To be aware that this life will end sharpens the mind and heart to sift through what is true from what is false in life, what is important and worthwhile from what is meaningless and trivial. The awareness of dying makes possible a meaningful life. That is why when the time comes, death becomes a happy event for a Christian.
I would like to share a beautiful article (the author of which I cannot recall) that so aptly describes what life that matters consists of and I quote:
“Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else. Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear. So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end. It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant. So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave. What will matter is not your success, but your significance. What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught. What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example. What will matter is not your competence, but your character. What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone. What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.”
Spirituality as a way of life is a choice. To be aware of the end times enables a person to choose to live a life that matters, a life spent in loving God and neighbor, all for the glory of God. Death and spirituality are two sides of the same coin, viewed at different angles.