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Are You Ready for Your One-Way Trip?

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If you had a one way trip to another county looming, how would you prepare?

The other day I heard one of the most sobering statements of my life. We were out to dinner after the funeral of a family member and one of my aunts said:

“Well, I guess we’re on deck”

It took me a moment, then I realized we had just buried the last of a generation. The folks around the table had no one above them, no one older than them, still living.

They were next.  They were “on deck”.

This certainly brought up plenty of uncomfortable thoughts of the inevitability of how our time here will end.  At the same time, I had to wonder why it took “being on deck” to take this seriously.

This Advent season, like all Advent seasons, we’re called to prepare for the coming of Jesus. Do we really use this time to prepare ourselves for that meeting?

Imagine for a moment, that you know you will be traveling to another country. This wouldn’t just be a vacation, but a permanent, one-way journey to a foreign land with no way, no hope, no possibility of returning. 

Imagine that this trip is coming, but you have no idea when you will leave. All you know for sure is one day the ship will depart and you’ll be on it, ready or not.

Would you assume the departure date is far in the future? That others will be leaving before you and you’ll know when it’s your turn? Would you put off getting ready for this trip thinking that you’ll have plenty of opportunity when the time comes?

Frankly, if I’m honest, sometimes I’m more prepared for driving across town than I am for the eternal trip I’m going to take when my time on earth is over.  I know this is coming, but it’s so easy to push those thoughts away!

I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to spend time dwelling on it. I believe that I’ll die one day, but not today!  Not tomorrow!  I have plans and things to do! 

I don’t think I’m “on deck”.

Yet, I know, and you know, there’s no guarantee of any warning.  Scripture promises our time will come like a thief in the night and watching the news for a few minutes will confirm how true that is.

This Advent, consider preparing in these three ways:

First, admit reality.  You don’t need to be doom and gloom, but denying our mortality isn’t living in reality.  Spend some time praying with this knowledge.  Don’t worry about when or what manner, you don’t know and God isn’t going to tell you, but you can sit with this reality in prayer and let it soak in a bit.

Then, like any other trip, think hard about what you need to have ready.  What can you bring along into eternity?  Really, all you get is yourself.  Your virtues and your vices.  Your character.  Figure out what you need more of and less of and prioritize getting it done!  

Finally, live your life in light of the previous two realities. You’re not going to grow in virtue pretending you’ll live forever but you also won’t grow in it by moping about because you’re mortal.  The Christian who actively remembers the shortness of their life and who enthusiastically tries to make the most of it will have a hard time going wrong!  

As we prepare for Christmas yet again, let’s go beyond the baking and presents and really spend some time with the reality that we are “on deck”.  

Our faith calls us to joyful anticipation of meeting Jesus in every way; in those around us, in our own hearts, in the Sacraments, and even at the end of our lives.  A healthy awareness of our mortality, praying about what we need to change, and living our life more fully are great ways to make this a reality!

 

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