She was a pianist. She taught many students how to play the piano. Invariably, when she prepared her pupils for recitals, she would have them practice the finale over and over again. Consistently the students would begin to gripe because of the constant repetition of the last few measures of music. When one would voice his complaints, the sensible teacher would always answer, “You can make a mistake in the beginning. You can make a mistake in the middle. However the people will forget it, if you make the ending glorious!”
The end is important. A young student came to Saint Philip Neri one day and told him he was to study law. ‘What a happy man I am. I am going to study and become a learned man.” “And then what?” asked Father Philip. ‘Then I shall become a great lawyer and win fame.” “And then what?” ‘Then I shall become very rich and build a beautiful home for myself.”
“And then what?” “Then I shall marry and live in comfort to a ripe old age.” “Then what?” The young man was confused. After some thought, he said, “Then, like everybody else, I shall die.” “And then what?”
The ‘then what?’ is a very important question in life. We cannot just roam aimlessly, wasting our life. We need to have a goal in life.
Baltimore catechism says that our chief purpose in life is to glorify and enjoy God forever. Is this true? Yes! God made us and so we have to follow what He thinks is best for us! We exist to worship God.
In the year 627 the monk Paulinus visited King Edwin in northern England to persuade him to accept Christianity. The king hesitated and summoned his advisors. At the meeting, one of them stood up and said, “Your Majesty, imagine one day that you are sitting at table. It is winter. The fire bums warm and bright in the fireplace and the storm is howling outside. All of a sudden a little bird flies into the hall. It comes through one open window and flies out through the other. For the few moments that it is inside the hall, it does not feel the cold, but as soon as it leaves your sight, it returns to the dark of winter. It seems to me that the life of man is much the same. We do not know what went before and we do not know what follows. If this new doctrine can speak to us confidently of these things, it is well for us to follow it.”
Saint Paul gives us such a beautiful answer. It is God’s plan for each one of us, he says, to “be conformed to the likeness of his Son”. With the Galatians, Paul, being a good catechist, labored, “until Christ is formed in you”. To the Ephesians he asserts that our goal is “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.
Yes, in Christ, we have acquired a new identity and a new purpose for living. When Pope Benedict XVI was addressing three thousand seminarians attending the World Youth Day in Cologne last month, he explicitly highlighted holiness as the goal of life. Holiness means conformity to Christ. Holiness means doing HIS will.
On his election, the Pope explicitly stated that “My real program of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history”
He already had in mind to retire from public life and dedicate his remaining years to private study and prayer. He had tendered his resignation to Pope John Paul II when he found himself thrown back into the limelight of the world. The story goes that at the conclave when the votes started coming in his favor, the cardinal sitting besides him, scribbled a note saying ‘Follow me’ referring evidently to the sermon the then Cardinal Ratzinger made on the death of Pope John Paul II.
One day a court jester said something so foolish that the king, handing him a staff, said to him, “Take this and keep it until you find a bigger fool than yourself.”
Some years later the king was very ill and lay on his deathbed. The king, addressing those gathered around his bed, said, “I am about to leave you. I am going on a very long journey, and I shall not return to this place: so I have called you to say goodbye.”
Then the jester stepped forward and addressed the king, saying, “Your Majesty, may I ask you a question? When you journeyed abroad visiting your people, staying with your nobles, or paying diplomatic visits to other kings, your heralds and servants always went before you making preparations for you. May I ask what preparations your Majesty has made for this journey you are about to take?”
“Alas,” he said, “I have made no preparing.” “Then,” said the Jester, “Take this staff with you, for now I have found a bigger fool than myself!”
Life is too important to waste it. Be wise.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.