There is a saying "there is no knell so laden with regret as the sound of the words, too late." There are simply things we cannot obtain at the last minute. In matters of God, it is easy to leave things so late that we can no longer prepare ourselves to meet God.
During the past couple of weeks we've had many spiritual and financial supporters who have passed on to another life. Every time we hear of friends and family dying, death of people we care about, it touches us profoundly. To be honest, dying still scares me a little. It used to scare me a lot but I learned to embrace dying for what it can represent.
When my father died last year I tried to make sense of his death and his loss to our family. He has been sick with cancer for quite some time and although we knew he might not have much time to live his death still took us by surprise.
Nothing can prepare us for death. But death embraced, especially if united with the death of our Savior can ease the pain and can even be celebrated with joy.
I was speaking with Patrick, one of our employees at Catholic World Mission (CWM), and this is what he had to say on the matter:
"If you and your loved ones are trying hard to live a good life and build a relationship with God, there should be nothing morbid about death. I compare it to the end of a long camping trip. You and your loved ones are settled around a campfire reminiscing about the day, and one by one those around you eventually head off to bed. When someone retires for the night you do not mourn their loss; you miss their company, but more importantly you rejoice in the memories you've created with them, and most importantly you take comfort in knowing you will see them again. When someone you love passes away, miss them, but rejoice in knowing that you will assuredly see them again in a place that is far greater than this."
In John 16:5-11 Jesus said, "I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth; it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you."
It would take a while for the disciples to understand the meaning of the Lord's message. Jesus' death, his going back
to the Father, ushered the sending of the Advocate, the Spirit of God to fill us with divine love. We now know his death was not an end but the beginning of countless new possibilities for generations to come. Jesus' death is one of the world's greatest gifts and it continues to bear fruit even to this day.
But what about our own mortality? What about death in our families, death of people close to us? What about the recent deaths of many friends and supporters of Catholic World Mission? Is there meaning in their deaths? Is it possible that not only the death of Jesus, but our death, too, will bring the Spirit of God to those we leave behind? I am comforted in believing that we can unite our deaths with that of the Lord. Henri Nouwen said it best:
"The great mystery is that all people who have lived with and in the Spirit of God participate through their deaths in the sending of the Spirit. God's love continues to be sent to us, and Jesus' death continues to bear fruit through all whose death is like his death, a death for others."
As we all move on from deaths of loved ones I hope and pray we all take comfort in the memories we shared with them. I hope their love and examples of unselfish actions continue to inspire us to persevere in doing the right things while we have the opportunity to do so here on earth. It is in this spirit that I would like to acknowledge the many contributions of Catholic World Mission's friends and supporters who have recently passed away.
Years after each and every one of our donors' death, their generosity continues to bear fruit in other people's lives - they bear fruit in the lives of children who were able to go to school because they generously sponsored their education, for families who survived because they gave us the means to buy them food, or medicines they would not have been able to afford or have access to. Our supporters allow generations of people to lead lives in the Spirit of Christ because they supported missionaries spreading God's Word even in the most remote villages in the world. See how you can support this important mission.
I started this correspondence about regrets for not doing things when we have the opportunity for a reason. I would like to think our donors and supporters have not wasted God's gifts as they have so clearly demonstrated by their actions. I would like to think they were prepared and understood death does not have the final say. They lived and understood what the saints have long understood about dying to self daily
, what the Lord meant when He said, "in all truth I tell you, unless a wheat of grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest" (John 12:24)
To all friends and supporters of Catholic World Mission, past and present, "Thank you".