When I was discerning religious life, God shared with me a moment of grace that helped me to put things into perspective.Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return. - Genesis 3:19
I was visiting a religious congregation in California and as I walked around the grounds of the convent alone, I stumbled on the cemetery where their sisters are laid to rest. The sisters were buried with their gravestones facing each other as if they were standing in choir, reciting the daily office. When I saw the white stones gleaming in the sun, for a moment God gave me an outside view of my life.
To my surprise, it was not horizontal as I had been envisioning, it was vertical.
Instead of seeing life as something that began with my birth and would end with my death, I saw it as something that began much earlier than my birth in the timeless mind of God. I realized that who I am is so much bigger than just my life on earth. In some mysterious way, I realized that my life on earth would determine who I was eternally. I suddenly had the desire to stop running away from my vocation and get down to business because I had already wasted so much time living for myself instead of for God.
On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we will return. This reminder is not morbid but rather a reminder to refocus our lives on what matters. God should be all that we live for, if we are living for anything else, we are wasting our life on Earth and endangering who we are supposed to be eternally.
In some ways our life now is a preparation for one moment, the moment of our death. In the moment of our death, we are either ready to see God or not. This is not usually something that is decided in that moment but in every moment of our lives leading up to it.
One person who lived her life for God was Sr. Cecilia Paula. I did not know her but as the sisters around me mourned her recent death at the young age of 57, I could see that she had lived a life centered on God. She left a beautiful video reflection on death that I would like to share with you. You can find the video of her last wishes at Sr. Helena's blog.
May we continue in the Lenten spirit with our impending death in mind. We do this not in order to focus on death but to focus on life - eternal life. We hope and pray that this will give us motivation to cut out the things in our life and heart that are keeping us from centering our lives on God.