Our first reading tells us how the son of a widow stopped breathing one day. Elijah the prophet happened to be staying at the house at the time this happened, and so he prayed with all his might for the young lad at his mother’s request. God heard his prayer and the boy came back to life. We see another widow in our Gospel today, who also prayed with all of her might for her son. She had one son, and he had similarly died and was being carried in his coffin. Jesus says the words and this man also came back to life and got a second chance.
Monsignor asked a really good question in his homily yesterday evening. He said, “What would you do if this happened to you?”
What if you died and then came back to life like the men in our readings today?
Perhaps we have all had times when we almost died–a car accident that should have claimed our lives, an incident with our health that could have put us in our graves, an attack that could easily have gone the other way. I suspect we’ve all had this exhilarating moments that almost took us to judgment day.
But what if we actually died and then came back to life again? What changes would we make on our second go around? How would we live differently after our return?
I think the answer is simple. We would all live less selfish lives.
Today the Corporal Work of Mercy is clothing the naked. Some of us have closets that are way too full. It is time to empty them and give that stuff to those who need it. You do not need more than 20 pairs of shoes. You do not need a closet full of stuff you dig through once a year, while the majority of the world has nothing to wear. I think that’s one thing we’d do if we died and came back: we would empty our closets. We’d be a lot more generous with what we don’t need and maybe even with what we do.
What else might we do differently if we came back from the dead?
We’d probably be less angry. Our psalm talks about how God has every reason to be angry with us, but yet his love lasts only a moment and his goodness forever. What about our anger. We’d be a lot less angry if we died and had another start.
I bet we’d watch less television, use less of our time on our video games. We’d probably spend less money on frivolities and we’d probably be better to our families. We’d be better to our God–we’d pray more, go to church more, care more about our God.
Yesterday I went to the ordination of a friend of mine in Gary, IN. From where I sat, I could see this man’s face the entire first half of the Mass. I almost took out my phone for a photo. Because what I saw was beautiful. I saw a young man, age 26–probably about the age of the man in our gospel–who sat there, ready to give his life over to God and His people. There sat a man filled with courage and love, who was about to make a heroic sacrifice and consecrate his life to a higher purpose–to the service of God. That’s what I’m talking about.
I know one thing we would not do if we died and were given another shot on earth. We would not go back to what St Paul in our second reading calls his “former ways” of hate and indifference.
No. We would love a lot more, give a lot more, help a lot more. We would be better men and better women, better fathers and better mothers. And I bet there’d be things that seem so important right now that, once we’d survived death, wouldn’t feel so important anymore.
Because maybe only death can put things in perspective that way.
Consider today your new lease on life. It’s time to pretend you died and start over.