November 3: “Death is in my thoughts”

It may be that, because he came very close to dying when he was only 21, Pope Francis seems calm in the face of death. Or it may be that his age has allowed him a closer look. In a series of revealing interviews he gave a few years before he became pope, he described death as “a daily companion of mine.” Why is that? “I’m over seventy years old and the thread of life I have left on the reel isn’t long. I’m not going to live another seventy, and I’m starting to consider the fact that I have to leave everything behind … death is in my thoughts every day.”

His equanimity is rooted in his belief in the risen Christ. One passage from the section on the power of the Resurrection, which makes our lives fruitful even if all seems lost or irrelevant, is particularly evocative.

“We can know quite well that our lives will be fruitful, without claiming to know how, or where, or when. We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force. Sometimes it seems that our work is fruitless, but mission is not like a business transaction or investment, or even a humanitarian activity. It is not a show where we count how many people come as a result of our publicity; it is something much deeper, which escapes all measurement. It may be that the Lord uses our sacrifices to shower blessings in another part of the world which we will never visit. The Holy Spirit works as he wills, when he wills and where he wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results. We know only that our commitment is necessary. Let us learn to rest in the tenderness of the arms of the Father amid our creative and generous commitment. Let us keep marching forward; let us give him everything, allowing him to make our efforts bear fruit in his good time.”

To bear fruit, in good time—and perhaps in another part of the world. Because it may be “that the Lord uses our sacrifices to shower blessings in another part of the world which we will never visit.” Now that’s a thought, and a consolation.

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