Last year, when I hit 71 years of age, I went into a bit of reality shock. I couldn’t believe it. I never imagined what it would be like to be in my 60’s, but 71! I thought 70 was a mistake and that it would be corrected next year. But there was no mistake: I was on my way to 80!!
This had a sobering effect on me. I began to realize how much I have been blessed in my life and that I am comfortably (?!) in the last third of my earthly existence. This was happening to me and not to someone else. How much time do I have left? So many persons who are reported as having died are reported to be younger than me. ‘She’ died at 68. ‘He’ died at 60. 71 seems ancient. Ouch! That word, ancient, smarts!
I know what puts this into context: my faith. I am an eternal being. My existence will continue in some way, perhaps deeply enhanced and made glorious. My reason: I feel great! I don’t feel like a 71-year-old. I am healthy and still feel vigorous.
My faith and my reason help me put my aging into context, especially when I realize how much I have matured from my youth and middle age. It feels good to be here at 71. Really? Yes.
But as a runner begins to recalibrate how much energy to expend on the race as he approaches the last few laps, I have also begun to try to respond to the years that I have left on this earth to give it my all for the end of the race.
I no longer have an expanse of 70 to 80 years ahead of me. But perhaps 20 if my health holds. Does that depress me? Not at all! It is exhilarating to know that I will be standing soon in the presence of my Lord and King, Jesus Christ, and that I will be able to thank God, our Blessed Lady, my Guardian Angel, and the Saints and Angels for all the help that they have given to me here on earth.
But I must confess that there is a little fear as well. As I get closer to the moment of my death, my sins seem uglier and more ungrateful by the day. How terrible even a venial sin is! So, I worry a little that I will also stand before my Judge and Savior to give an account of my life. I’m afraid that I may have to throw myself on the mercy of the Judge since my sins far outnumber my good deeds, especially when I count my sins of omission.
Some people feel a little insulted that they will be judged. They say, “Who has a right to judge us?” God, of course! He created us; He sustains us; He forgives us; He teaches us; He heals us; He is the center of the Universe and should be the center of each of our lives.
The judgement of God is grounded on the fact that God expects the best in us because we are capable of that level of goodness and truth. How we live our lives matters to God as do every small decision that we make. Understood correctly, this is tremendously ennobling of our place in the Universe and how we stand before God.
While Christ died for us opening the gates of Paradise, closed by Original Sin, it is not magic. We are expected to appropriate the victory of Christ and become part of the redemption of the world through our place in the mystical body of Christ. When we refuse to do this, we even frustrate the plan of God. Therefore, sin, even venial sin, is so terrible.
Unfortunately, we have lost a sense of sin in these modern times. Everything is ok in the way of the world. God forgives everyone so there is nothing to worry about and no major changes need to be on the horizon. This spiritual passivity is one of the demons of our age. It lulls us into a false security. Repentance is seen as automatic. No need for sorrows or regrets, just keep doing what you are doing.
But the Scriptures, the Tradition of the Church, and even what Our Lady warned about during her apparitions tell a different story. Heartfelt repentance is necessary for salvation. Everyday our fidelity to the Will of God is the only reliable barometer of our spiritual health. The narrow way, says Jesus, leads to life. The way the majority are going leads to damnation.
Therefore, at my age, I beseech the mercy of God and try to mirror His will in my life. The older I get the more pernicious seems the way of the world.
Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.