This post is a transcription of one of Fr. Richard’s recent homilies. You can listen to the homily here.
We are blessed as we begin this new church year first Sunday of Advent.
When we listen to the gospel and we listen to the other readings, we begin the church year always with the end in mind.
So we begin the church year with the end of the world, the end of our life in mind. It’s so appropriate that we begin today with Jonah Eric and we remember James Wheeler, who just passed away this past week and someone who will be born to life in a church today, little Jonah.
So what I want us to do is all of us reflect some time this week, and you can begin now, on your own death. It’s a good thing to remember and think about the moment you die and you’re laying in your deathbed and you get to reflect on your past life.
Living Life with No Regrets: What Do You Want People to Say About You?
What again do you want people to say about you? Do you want God to say about you? Do you want your family to say about you, your neighbor to say about you? The people that just met you once?
When you’re dying and you have to think about your whole life, what is it you want people to say about you?
I know when I stand and I’m on my deathbed, I want to be able to right after I die be able to hear God the Father look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I want my parishioners, if I’m still a pastor then or an old retired priest, I want my people to say who I was with them that, “He was faithful to God, faithful to church. He never did anything scandalous much. He sat there and he was faithful. He loved God and he loved others.”
I want the same thing for my family.
What do you want? Because when you think about that moment, the way you end your life, you get that ending by how you live your life now.
So if you were to drop dead now, would they say those things about you? The ones you want to hear? Or would they say, “I’m glad that one’s gone. Whew. A miserable human being.”
Now, some of you might want to say that about me when I’m gone, but I think some of you will go before me, so you won’t have to say that. 😉
Living Life With No Regrets: Robert Rogers’ Story
Anyway, this past week, I went up to Fort Wayne, Indiana and dealt with Robert Rogers. I don’t know if you remember Robert Rogers. He spoke here at our parish a while back.
Robert has a very interesting story that he went and again, when he was young, married young, very strong Christian. Him and his wife tithed from the moment they got married. They prayed every day together. They had four children, well, five. One first child, perfect little child.
She got pregnant again, and he happened to stay home because she was pregnant, and just having a second cup of coffee. She passed out and, turns out she had an ectopic pregnancy. He just got her in time for the hospital, because everything burst and she would have died.
They told she would never be able to have another child, so they went to China and they adopted a little baby girl from China who had a heart murmur. They loved that child, and then she did get pregnant again.
This time when she got pregnant, she had a little baby boy who had Down’s syndrome. Then she had another kid after that. So one was in heaven and four were on earth.
One day, they’re in Wichita, Kansas and they’re driving back in their minivan and they’re singing Jesus Loves Me and all this kind of stuff.
All of a sudden, it starts raining, and then a six-foot fast flash flood came and took their vehicle and put it into the river there. They’re going down and they’re trying to calm the kids and they’re talking about Jesus loves me and they’re calling people and say, “You’ve got to pray for us. We’re in the middle of stuff.”
Robert kicked out the window, but he passed out. When he wakes up the next day, there he is in the room and there’s the police officer and then there is the priest and saying, “We’re very sorry, Robert, but your wife and children died yesterday.”
What does he say? “Though he slay me, still I will praise him.”
What? I remember the first time I heard that. I’m like, “What? That’s what you said?”
Most of us, we have one little bad thing happen to us. Oh, something bad happened. We hate God. We hate everybody. We live a miserable life for the rest of our life, just hating and being miserable.
He sits there and says, “Though he slay me, still I will praise him.”
Then he has a great thing called living life with no regrets, because he told his wife every day that he loved her. He told every one of his children every day that he loved them, and he loved them with all his heart.
So when they went, he knew that they knew that they were loved. He had no regrets about how he loved those children and how he loved his wife.
He then went and took those four children who had passed away, and he started an orphanage in different continents throughout the world and named for each of those four children.
He has a great ministry called Mighty In The Land. He has orphanages, so his four children who died, they gave life to all these other children throughout the world.
Then he’s a true Job, because God brought another woman into his life. He had four children, two boys, two girls, and he just had another one, number five, a little boy named Solomon Gideon. What a name.
(He asked me to be the godfather. That poor kid.)
So I drove six hours up. Was there for the baptism. Great baptism. Had a very fast meal. Got back in the car and drove six hours back.
But as I was thinking about Robert and his life, to live a life of no regrets, he lived a life of love and he still does, and he made sure he told the people he loved that he loved them.
Living Life With No Regrets: The Apocalypse
Now, when you hear the gospel today, it’s very strong about how some people die of fright.
You’ve got to be prepared for when Christ comes. And then Paul tells us how to be prepared. It’s very clear here, huh? If this is the first and the most important thing Jonah will ever learn, it’s the greatest thing.
It says, “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all just as we have for you, so to as strengthen your hearts to be blameless in holiness before God our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus and all his holy ones.”
What’s Paul saying? If you want to be prepared for the end, if you want to be able to stand erect when he comes because your redemption has come, then live a life of love.
When you live a life of love, you’re going to grow strong. You’re going to get strength from living that life of love and you will become holy, because God is love. The more we love, the more like God we become.
Again, I had the mass for seminarians this week, and I says, “When you’re dying one day, it ain’t going to matter you were right and you were orthodox.” Ooh. Were you like God? Were you loving? Were you loving? So for all of us, we’ve got to make sure.
Some people when I give these love homilies, some of you think and some of you that are listening online sit there and think, “Father is getting soft.”
Shut up. I’m no way getting soft. It’s easy to be angry, is it not? It’s easy to get angry. It’s easy to blame God when things don’t go right for you.
Robert could have blamed God and lived a life of miserableness for the rest of his life because how bad he had it. It’s easy. It’s hard to love, to love God no matter what’s happening.
To love others, in spite of how they are. It’s hard, but when we truly decide that we’re going to love, that’s when we grow strong and that’s when we grow into holiness.
Living Life With No Regrets: Your New Year’s Resolution
I want to encourage us, as we begin this next year, that we make a resolution. That this is the year that I will become more loving. This is the year that I not only will love not only the people who it’s easy to love … Even pagans love people in their families … but do as Jesus says, to love our enemies.
To love those who don’t agree with. To love those we struggle with.
That this will be the year that we decide that we will become people of love. This will be the year thing that we focus on every day.
So every day, we focus. Am I more loving? Am I loving? Am I giving away my life? Am I telling the people I love that I love them? Because you’ll have no regrets if you do that.
You’re not going to lay on your deathbed and say, “I can’t believe I told the people I love that I loved them and I love people. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
You will never think that. I promise you.
But if you’re laying on your deathbed and you don’t tell the people you love that you love them, you don’t love people, you will regret your life, because in the end, that’s the only thing that matters.
Jesus tells us today if we love like that, we will become like him, and we will grow strong, and we will be holy. You got it?
You get it?
You going to live it?
Make sure and know his love today and forever. Amen.
For more from Fr. Richards, consider his talk on The Mystery of Christmas.