A few weeks ago my pastor Msgr. Rick started his sermon with a small white card in his hand. I assumed it was notes.
He started talking about what we enjoy in our lives, the activities and hobbies and interests that are important to us and that we spend a lot of time on.
“We priests do a lot of wakes and funerals, and I’ve seen all sorts of things go in the casket.” He understood the natural impulse some people have to place objects representing a favorite activity in the casket. “A football helmet, a baseball glove, a fishing rod…I’ve seen it all,” he continued.
Nothing wrong with celebrating the fun we’ve had. But will it help at all at the moment of judgment? Probably not. It’s crucial that we are aware that the things and activities we love aren’t what our eternity is based on.
Msgr. Rick reflected on the day of his ordination thirty something years ago. Someone who likes to be prepared and prefers not to be surprised, he thought he had every aspect of his ordination Mass planned out. His sermon, his robes, the family and friends invited to be there all carefully thought of.At the very end of his first Mass, another priest whispered to him to go walk over to the statue of the Blessed Mother. “Why?! That’s not part of the Mass,” he thought. But being an obedient new priest, he walked over to find a huge arrangement of flowers in front of Our Lady’s statue. There was a small card. It was the card he held in his hand during his sermon.
The card read (I’m paraphrasing from what he shared with us), “We thanked God on the day you were born and every day for giving you to us as our son. We thank Him now as we give you back to Him as a priest. May God bless you every day of your priesthood. Love Mom and Dad”
Msgr. Rick had a tear in his eye as he read this beautiful treasured note. And then he said, “This is the one thing I want in the casket with me when I die.”
By now I was in tears along with quite a few other parishioners. He so clearly made the point, without actually even saying it, that it’s not what we love on earth that we’ll be judged on; it’s how we love and what we do with our time that matters.