Years ago, a song asked the romantic question: “What are you doing the rest of your life?”
Last week, an item in the New York Times put that into sharp focus. It was a story about a website called “DeathClock.com.” At the site, you enter your birth date, your general personality type – optimistic or pessimistic – and a few other details. And in a matter of seconds, it will tell you, exactly, the date you can expect to die.
For those who are interested, according to the website, I’m scheduled to check out on Sunday, April 21, 2052. I’m free that day, if anyone wants to make dinner plans. I’ll be happy to make plans for the following night, as well, but no guarantees. I’ll be 92 years old.
Now, this is hardly scientific. And the point of it seems to be to get you to change habits in your life that might be shortening it: lose weight, exercise, stop smoking. We don’t have forever. Time is limited—and fleeting.
Which brings us back to the musical question: “What are you doing the rest of your life?” … I think the gospel readings we’re encountering right now pose a similar question and raise the stakes.
Last week, you’ll remember, we heard of the man who accumulated lots of stuff in his barn, only to learn that he was about to die. “You fool,” God said to him.
This week, Jesus underscores that idea again, telling his disciples to be prepared.
“Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,” he says, “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”
Be prepared. You do not know when the Son of Man will return.
They are words of caution to us all. We need to be ready, anticipating, waiting in “joyful hope.” That means nothing less than a constant and daily call to conversion.
We tend to think of conversion as a one-time event, like Paul blinded on the road to Damascus. But no. Conversion is ongoing. To take one example, there is a reason why we call RCIA a “process.” It’s not a program, or a class, or a study plan. It’s a process. What begins in the rectory basement on a weeknight in September continues all the way through the scrutinies, through that moment at the baptismal font during the Easter Vigil. But then it goes on. Every day. It is the work of a lifetime.
And not just for those in RCIA. But for all of us. Conversion of heart demands our constant attention, and our prayer.
In the 13th century, an English bishop, St. Richard of Chichester, wrote a simple prayer about daily conversion that all of us know, thanks to Stephen Schwartz, who set it to music in 1972.
“Day by day, dear Lord, three things I pray. To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly. Day by day.”
That, quite simply, is conversion. That is the way we are called to live.
Conversion is a daily choice, a daily prayer. A daily state of readiness. Ready to greet the master at the door at any moment, even without warning.
Part of that readiness involves a change in focus, a shift in priorities. Early on in this gospel passage, Jesus offers words that serve as a challenge, especially in our own age:
“Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
What do we treasure? What do we treasure?
What means the most to us?
The rich man last week learned the hard way that you can’t take it with you, that you “need to be rich in what matters to God,” as the gospel put it.
That means being rich in compassion. In mercy. Rich in love for the poor, the weak, the marginalized, the small. Rich in love and respect for life, from its beginning to its end.
Because none of us, after all, knows exactly when it will end, no matter what a clever website may try to tell us.
So, as Jesus tells us this week: be prepared. Be watchful.
And be open. God is calling us, every one of us, to draw near to him.
What are you doing the rest of your life?
The lyrics to that song are by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, who may be best known for “The Way We Were.” Like that song, this one is also a love song. But listen closely.
It could also be heard as God’s love song to a fallen, searching world—God’s invitation to each of us:
What are you doing the rest of your life?
North and south and east and west of your life?
I have only one request of your life
That you spend it all with me.
All the seasons and the times of your days.
All the nickels and the dimes of your days.
Let the reasons and the rhymes of your days.
All begin and end with me.
My friends: What are we doing with the rest of our lives?
Are we making ourselves ready to greet God, whenever he comes to the door?
That should be our great work of our lives, for the rest of our lives.