Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We always have to be ready

Yesterday was an extraordinary day in the United States. Watching the news coverage of the overwhelmingly tragic events at Virginia Tech evoked emotions that ranged from profound sadness to shock, anger and curiosity. It was one of those days when prayer was the only times I could find any comfort or peace, whether privately or with others. To all of the families of the victims, the students, faculty, alumni, and to the entire Virginia Tech family, I offer my heartfelt condolences and sympathy on behalf of the entire St. Andrew’s community.

In the Fall, we had a discussion at Youth Group about salvation. We talked about salvation in terms of getting to Heaven, and that Christ is our salvation. A big point we made was that we always need to be ready to go to Heaven. This means to be in close friendship with Christ at all times, because we never know when our time on Earth will come to an end. This point was made abundantly clear with the events at Virginia Tech yesterday.

Especially in a world where evil is all around us, we always need to be ready to go to Heaven. I remember years ago watching television with my good friend, Fr. Wells. We were watching the news when the story of a local policeman being murdered came on. A moment or so later, Fr. Wells said quietly but firmly, ‘I hope he (the policeman) went to Church on Sunday’. It was not said in any kind of a judgmental or critical way; it was said in a hopeful and caring way. The point was that, no matter how the deaths of our bodies come about, our souls should be in a state that is ready to see God face to face.

My hope, then, is that all those who died at Virginia Tech yesterday were ready to go to Heaven. Of course, it was extremely unfair that their lives ended so early and abruptly by the awful, evil, and vicious acts of a psychotic coward. In no way did God actively will their deaths. But, for some mysterious reason (the same reason that He allows all evil), He allowed the deranged gunman to kill them. We know we live in a world where, on a daily basis, people reject Love and choose hate, often in the form of murder. I know that today I might be the victim of violence, so I will prepare myself accordingly. I will not live in fear; rather, I will live in faith. Living with faith overcomes all fear, even the fear of death.

As Catholics, we realize that “our citizenship is in Heaven” (Phil 3). We live on this Earth knowing that the main reason we are here is to get to Heaven. We are not living for this world only- we are living in this world with our eyes on Heaven. This means living for God and for others (i.e., holiness). If we live this way, then we will be ready to go when the time comes. If we are not living this way, Christ calls us to change our lives. He doesn’t want any of us to live in fear, and certainly wants none of us to be apart from him for all eternity.

As I told the teens in the Fall, we never know when the time will come. It could happen stepping out of your car and getting hit by a metrobus. It could happen walking the dog in a snowstorm and a tree falls on you. It could happen taking notes during class. We never know, so we always have to be ready.

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