28 August 2008 Memorial of St. Augustine
Matthew 24, 42-51 Vigilance
The Gospel begins with an exhortation: “Stay awake!” The exhortation primarily refers to the Second Coming of Christ. Paul in the first reading reminds his people to remain faithful to the Lord until the end of days. Because it will come like a thief in the night. No one will know when it comes, and when it does it would be too late to change. But a delay of thousands of years may bring a certain disillusionment. It may not come in our lifetime, or perhaps, it would take longer for another generation.
So, we shall take the Gospel to also mean our own physical death when we too will meet the Lord in the afterlife. We know that the climax of our lives is our eventual union with God. St. Augustine, whose life we remember today, said that in all of our lives our hearts will be restless, until it comes to rest in God. And therefore, our whole life is a preparation for our death. And it is healthy to think about death in this perspective — not superstitiously. If we meditate on our death, it would give us a perspective.
All we have to do is to imagine ourselves at our deathbed and ask certain questions. What would you like people to say about you when you die? What memories would you like them to keep as a remembrance of you? What questions in your life would you like to have resolved? Who are the people you would like to see and to surround your deathbed before your last breath? If so, are you spending more time with them than with others who do not matter to you?
St. Augustine was a latecomer or a late bloomer in terms of his faith life. “Late have I loved you” wrote Augustine. There is always a chance to begin changing now; an opportunity to prepare and stay awake! With the perspective of death, we can now direct our lives to where we would like it to lead. So that when the hour comes — when, we do not know — we would be ready. And if we have prepared well, our hearts will be peaceful and at rest when we sleep.