“Remember the end of your life.” 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Remember the end of your life.” Sirach’s advice is one of those suggestions that puts things in perspective. The advice from Sirach goes on and is relevant for the forgiveness that scripture reminds us of today.
Sirach certainly speaks of vengeance, anger and wrath.
“Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside; remember corruption and death, and be true to the commandments.
Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbour; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.”
Matthew’s Gospel offers a story to illustrate Jesus’ point about the need for constant forgiveness.
The master says to his slave: “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?”
Jesus offers the story as an illustration of the need to “forgive our brother or sister from your heart.”
Many, if not most, of our areas of anger seem to take on a sense of importance and urgency in the heat of the moment. But when we look at the long view, that urgency fades away.
This is certainly the case if we gain the perspective of our whole life. Will I still hold on to the anger when I approach the end of my time on earth?
The question is whether I will still remember what I was so angry about so many years ago. I’ve certainly heard stories of family feuds that last for years.
Oftentimes, no one remembers what started the feud. If they do remember, they acknowledge that the issue is so minor that it should never have lead to such divisions in the family.
Life has many challenges. We don’t need to add to the challenges by dividing the family because of strong feelings about who marries whom, sexual orientation and other issues that cause controversy in family.
So many of the divisions revolve around land, wills, and verbal promises (Oh! You can have that item when I die.) Ask yourself: Is this really going to be so important when I’m old?)
We don’t need to wait until the end of life to let go of the hurt and anger. None of us hopes for illness, but lying very sick in bed is often a time of letting go of past pain and anger.
Why wait for illness! We have the gift of imagination. I’ve recently been rereading a favourite book: The Educated Imagination, by the great Canadian scholar Northrop Frye.
He reminds us, “Everything [we do] that’s worth doing is some kind of construction, and the imagination is the constructive power of the mind set free to work on pure construction, construction for its own sake. The units don’t have to be words; they can be numbers or tones or colours or bricks or pieces of marble.”
Why can’t the units be the chapters of my life, my relationships, my memories and my regrets? Let’s take time to construct a picture of healthy family – construction for its own sake.
Ask yourself today: Is there a division, or even a mild separation, in my family because of enmity? Is there a sibling who chooses to skip family gatherings? Is there an aunt who is forgotten? Is there a relative whose name usually leads to a shake of the head?
It’s probably good for me to do some serious reflection, and, possibly, some serious remedial work. If it helps, Saint Ignatius offers a similar suggestion to help exercise the imagination when we are stuck in our inability to make a decision.
“Let me picture and consider myself as standing in the presence of my judge on the last day, and reflect what decision in the present matter I would then wish to have made. I will choose now the rule of life that I would then wish to have observed, that on the day of judgement I may be filled with happiness and joy.”
Remember the end of your life. Let that memory give you a good night of sleep as you let go of the unimportant stuff.