As the school year comes to an end, Educators are exhorting their students with this motto . . . “Prepare for Life, Prepare for life.” Study diligently so one will have a means of supporting his dependents. I agree this is a good battle cry, but there might be a better one. Maybe this: “Prepare for death, Prepare for death.”
What life do the educators speak about? This life ends in a short number of years, even if one lives to be 70 or 80 years (or in the case of yours truly almost 96!) The Scriptures say this life is like a flower that blooms in the morning and withers away at night. Six years ago, I visited frequently with a former student of mine. Father Tony was 65, and suffered from a terminal illness. I first met him when he was 14 years old, a 1st year student at Quigley Seminary.
Our conversations were enriching to me. Father Tony told me that swallowing was becoming more difficult. He realized that most likely he would not see the leaves falling from the trees that autumn. When visitors would come, he would say “Good Bye” to them because he felt that he might never see them again. Not a bad idea for all of us. We talked about the many places where Father Tony served the Lord, His Master, faithfully for 40 years.
Yes, I am proud of Father Tony, because he prepared himself well for death. He stored up many riches in the treasure house of Heaven, little or nothing in the Bank of America. While he preached the wisdom of serving the God to his people, he faithfully followed his own words. I remember Father Tony calmly awaiting the final call of the Lord of Mercy. “I accept . . . I accept” were his frequent words.
What can we tell our young people? Death is out of their range of thinking. Tell them to store up treasures in Heaven where neither moth nor decay and destroy. By doing everything for the love of God, all their thoughts, words and actions will turn into heavenly gold. Their morning prayer will bring this about.
My favorite piece of music is entitled “Time To Say Good Bye”. Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, two stellar singers, sang this duet with a full orchestra. I would play this all the time. It would lift my spirits as never before. I realize this will be the story of my life soon. Father Tony loved this piece of music too. Six years ago, it was his time to leave this world behind and go to the real life of Heaven. In time, we will all face this same event. Are we prepared?
Fr. George Mc Kenna
I love the town of Jericho, on the West Bank of Israel, about 25 miles from Jerusalem. People have lived there continuously for 4,000 years. I love Jericho because of the story of Zacchaeus, the much despised tax collector of Jericho. This story screams out to me that I, like him, can get taken up with the friendship of Jesus of Nazareth.
In St. Luke’s Gospel, the story goes that Zacchaeus, unhappy with his life, climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus passing through the town. For showing his interest, Jesus rewarded Zacchaeus by having dinner with him that night. This meeting with Christ turned Zacchaeus’s life upside down and brought new happiness to him.
That’s why I treasure Jericho! I have been there many times. The story tells me that I too, can have a conversion of heart and find myself closely attached to the Gentle Christ. Starting today, I will try to climb to some vantage point to have a closer view of the Young Rabbi. How will I do this? Just ordinary means will suffice, like reading the Gospel stories, through prayer, by crying out each morning my desire to see the beauty of His Life, by refusing to live a dull life.
I remember driving home from Midway Airport many years ago and as I tuned in my radio, I heard the closing services of the Promise Keepers from Dallas, Texas. Started in the early 1990’s 60,000 men had gathered together for three days of renewal. What enthusiasm these men showed as they sang songs of praise to the Lord. They didn’t want to leave the Stadium and go home because of the wonderful feelings of hope for the future they were experiencing.
Over the years, I have taken much interest in the Promise Keepers, a group that cuts across all religious, racial, and political lines and brings men together for the purpose of keeping alive seven key promises in their lives. At these meetings, dynamic speakers who have touched my soul in the past, stir up in the hearts of these men the desire to be all that they can be for God and family! Hundreds of thousands of men coming together to pray!
I present the reader with two of the Promises . . . “A Promise Keeper is committed to honor Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to his Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.” . . . “A Promise Keeper is committed to build strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values.” This is not a new religion or political party. Bill McCartney, a devout Catholic, founded this group to bring men of all faiths together for the purpose of making them spiritually stronger. Don’t we all, at times, have a sense of emptiness, a lack of fulfillment in our spirits? Why can’t I be enthusiastic about Christ like the Promise Keepers? Enthusiasm – so much good can from this positive feeling!
Fr. George Mc Kenna