This is the second part of a two-part series addressing some practical matters we might want to consider in light of the question, “What if the beer truck runs over you tomorrow?” In part one of this series, we fleshed this question out in terms of preparing our souls. Throughout Sacred Scripture, we see our Lord asking us to share our gifts and blessings with others for His Greater Glory. As a result, we probably ought to be asking ourselves from time to time how well we are doing in that regard. If we seem to be “too busy” to build the Kingdom through our works, can we find a way to begin to volunteer at a minimal level, or to increase our level of involvement by just a bit? If we shudder at the thought of a true tithe, can we begin giving or begin to increase what we give back to the Lord, a little at a time?
The bottom line is that our overriding love for our Glorious Creator should be driving all that we do. Without Him and His unique, particular love for each of us, we wouldn’t even exist. Without Him, His gifts and blessings, finding ways to share with others would be a moot point.
Building a Relationship with Jesus
If we really want to spend eternity with Our Lord, what kind of relationship are we cultivating right now with Him? It is one thing to have an intellectual knowledge of God and of Scripture, of Church precepts and the like. But that is not knowing Jesus as a person. It is not having an intimate relationship with Him. With any relationship, spending quality time together with those we love and care about is a must. If we are to love God above all things, we need to get to know Him better by spending more time with Him. We can never spend too much time with Him because of His infinite nature. This leads, then, to a question of just how much time we are spending with Our Lord right now. And it’s not only a question of quantity, but also one of how much quality we have built into that time.
Do we make it a habit of starting each day with prayer, if only through a short morning offering prayer? Do we ask the Holy Spirit to guides us in what we do and how to do it throughout the day? Do we end every day with prayer, including a brief examination of conscience or examen, to give thanks, identify where we didn’t do so well, and resolve to do better the next day? These beginning-of-the-day and end-of-the-day prayers can be as simple as giving praise to God for his infinite goodness, mercy and love, thanking him for our blessings, mentioning any specific petitions we have for Him, and concluding with an Our Father. There are a variety of standard prayers we can use if we are not sure of where and how to start.
Liturgy of the Hours
At the other end of the spectrum, we might consider praying the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, using a breviary or one of many smartphone apps to pray the psalms anywhere from once or twice to several times each day. Priests and religious are required to do this, and most will tell you what a blessing it is to be able to do so. Some people cannot commit the time required to praying the Divine Office. For them, tools like the Magnificat pocket-sized monthly booklets, and app, make it easy to engage in prayer and read some Scripture, including the readings from the Catholic Lectionary for every day’s Mass.
Have we cultivated a habit of daily relational prayer—Lectio Divina—where we spend some time reading scripture, reflecting on it and listening to the Lord speak to us? This may involve putting ourselves in the presence of the Lord, reading, thinking about its application to our own lives. We talk with God about it and sit quietly to let the Holy Spirit work on us and talk to us. Even if we can only do this for 15 to 20 minutes, it is a good habit to acquire.
Don’t forget about devotions such as the Rosary and the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. Praying these daily can be an immense source of grace, and they do not take much time. Even if one cannot pray an entire Rosary at one time, praying even a decade is a good practice to initiate and build upon.
What about the rest of the time throughout the day in between and around these other prayer times and activities? Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a 17th century Carmelite monk, wrote:
There is no manner of life in the world more sweet or more delicious than continual conversation with God. They alone can understand it who practice it and savor it. I do not advise you, however, to practice it for this motive. The desire for spiritual consolation must not be our purpose in carrying on this practice. Instead, let us do it out of love for God and because it is His will.
St. Paul tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” Do we continually try to stay in the presence of God, and see His presence in all that we encounter and do?
Scripture is clear about our need to forgive others, not only in the Our Father prayer that Jesus gave us (Mt 6:12-15), but in other passages (Col 3:13, Eph 4:32, for example) as well. Yet this can be very difficult at times, especially when we or someone we love has been harmed in any way. Each of us probably has far too many anecdotes we could share on this topic. Recent research shows that unforgiveness has detrimental effects on our mental and physical health. Holding a grudge actually can make us sick.
It goes far beyond mental and physical health, though. The late Fr. Al Lauer, founder of Presentation Ministries, said that from his work as a priest, he believed that over 90% of all problems are rooted in people’s inability to forgive others. Over 90%! Father Al’s advice on this matter is excellent—pray for the grace to forgive, and to show mercy to others (which he defines as treating others better than they might deserve). On our own, we cannot do this, but with God nothing is impossible. A quick review of Mt 18 should convince us all that we really do not want to meet the Lord Our God while we continue to hold grudges against others and have not mirrored His merciful love and forgiveness to them.
Sharing with Others
Each one of us has been uniquely blessed by God. He has given each of us unique gifts and graces we need in order to carry out the mission He has in mind for us. Are we attempting to order our lives for the Greater Glory of His Kingdom? What gifts does He expect us to use to bring souls to Him? It’s different for everyone. In His unique, particular love for us, He has given us special talents. We need to use those talents to build His Kingdom. Working with a spiritual director or going through something like Sherry Weddell’s Called and Gifted process can help us identify those talents.
Once we’ve identified those talents, we need to use them. It seems that we do not hear much about sins of omission these days. Sins of omission occur when we don’t carry out some action to which we are obliged. We are obliged to help those in need—the less fortunate. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus tells us, “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Ignoring that responsibility is a sin of omission. We can try to avoid sins of omission by living in God’s presence at all times, and using the talents He’s given us to help others, and bring them closer to Him.
Living in a State of Grace
Besides praying regularly, giving unselfishly and truly forgiving others, there is much more we can do to be prepared for the “beer truck” event. Attempting to live in a state of grace is a key factor. We can facilitate this by living out the Ten Commandments and following the Precepts of the Church. These, however, really only set the bar at the bare minimum level of acceptable performance. Instead of just making it to Mass on Sundays and keeping holy the Sabbath, why not try to make it to one or more weekday Masses? Instead of merely going to Confession once a year or a couple of times a year, why not receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least monthly, and in between, whenever we feel we’ve gone over the top in some sinful way? If we’re properly disposed and free from mortal sin, making it a point to receive Holy Communion more than once a week can make some huge changes in one’s life through the grace received.
The Short List
There are many, many things we can do to be better prepared for when our time comes. In the context of the “beer truck” question, I’d suggest, at a minimum, that we live according to God’s Commandments and the Church’s Precepts. As well, Jesus left us the Sacraments to help us, and we should make frequent use of them. Daily prayer, including the Rosary and Lectio Divina, can make a world of difference for anyone and should also be part of our routine. And don’t forget about forgiving others and sharing with those less fortunate. Conceptually, it is really pretty simple.
Readers probably will have many other ideas to add to this list, such as performing specific works of mercy, letting the Holy Spirit guide us to help others in need, avoiding gossip, not being judgmental, and so on. We just need to start somewhere and recognize that we are all works in progress. Through the grace of God, we can continue to move the needle on the dial closer to the “Holy” mark if we are willing to allow Him to change us.
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