Slow Down, Stay Awake and Be Ready

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Father David BonnarMany years ago, there used to be a highway in the Greater Pittsburgh area that was unfinished. About 15 miles outside of the city, there were signs posted informing drivers to slow down because the highway would end. Every year at this time, I think of that highway because the liturgical year is nearing an end.

All of the readings in the coming days at holy Mass invite us to consider our own end and to be prepared for Jesus, who says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25:13). St. Paul calls to mind the unpredictability of death when he says, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord can come like a thief in the night” (1 Thes 5:2). These messages challenge us to prepare for our own inevitable end, the time of which only God knows.

In reflecting upon this end, we priests must make sure that we have a living will with advanced medical directives as well as a last will and testament. To consider the end is not easy, especially our finality. Over a year ago, I embraced the exercise of updating all of these aforementioned documents. I do not have much, but I found this effort to be painstaking and unsettling. The whole exercise took nearly a year to complete. Needless to say, it was something that I found difficult because it brought me face to face with my own mortality.

I remember going to the funeral home to select a casket and vault. While I have always enjoyed shopping, I have never done that kind of shopping. Even though I have been in countless funeral homes to pray for the deceased and offer consolation to the family left behind, that visit was one that I will never forget. It was just so real.

And yet, when the documents and needed pre-work was finally completed, I found a particular peace. If you do not have any of these documents completed, I encourage you to do so. And if you have completed this exercise, perhaps it is time to revisit this matter for any updates. And if you have yet to do that necessary “shopping” in the funeral home for yourself, I encourage you to do so. All of these efforts done now will make it so much easier for our loved ones when the time arrives.

Along the way, one of the lessons I learned from the attorney is that everyone should have a copy of their medical directives in the glove box of their car in the event that they are ever in a serious car accident. Do you have this document in your glove box?

I remember how the old movies would often finish with the words, “The End.” None of us know when the motion picture of our life will end. All we know is that none of us will escape this reality. We all will die. These final weeks of the liturgical year present many signs that life will end and that we need to slow down, stay awake and be ready. May that end, whenever it occurs, yield for all of us a new and eternal beginning.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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