(Visual homily with rope)
I want to show you something. (Long piece of rope, with about 12 inches colored in blue at one end). Picture this rope going on for thousands of miles, several times around the earth and on to infinity. This is your existence, from the time you were conceived, to all eternity. See this short piece here (pointing to the 12 inches in blue)? That is our time on earth.
When you see it visually, it makes you think. We are conceived here (pointing to the beginning of the colored section), we have our childhood here, hopefully our education from here to here and then some kind of career for the longest part (of the blue part). Then we retire and when our time on earth is complete, we go on to the eternal life we were created for. That is what we have been created for and to make sure we could get from here to here (blue part to the rest), the death and resurrection of Christ took place.
Think for a moment of how much time and energy we put into trying to get everything right here. We want the best education, so that we can have a good career, raise a family, provide for our children and make sure they are as well prepared as possible… for this short piece here (blue part).
How much time do we put into preparing for the rest of it? How much time do we spend preparing our children for the rest of it? Think of how much time we put into looking after our physical body. When we die it will disintegrate. Our soul is what will continue for all eternity. How much time do we prepare it for what is to come, to make sure it will continue to happiness and not darkness? What tends to happen right now, is that all the energy is put into getting everything right and comfortable just for our time on earth, but the decisions we make here, have consequences for all eternity. Our soul is immortal and will continue on after it leaves our body, but where it goes depends on what we choose.
Many people won’t even make it this length (the blue part), but will jump unexpectedly to here (beginning of the rest of it), because of sickness, accidents and natural disasters, but sadly we talk about it as our life being ‘over’. So many times at funerals I hear people talking about the deceased as if that is it, there is nothing more. ‘Their memory lives on.’ So many people have lost a sense of eternity, of the world to come, of the existence of God. 2.4 million people die every year in the US alone. It’s simply part of the cycle. Their soul goes somewhere. The biggest mistake we can make is to get so distracted by our life on earth that we forget about what comes after, thinking that this (red part) is everything and at this time, many people are focused only on this earth.
The decisions we make during our life on earth have eternal consequences. How we live on earth is so important. If our life on earth works out well and we manage to have a good career and a happy retirement, it is a blessing. But even if our life on earth is disappointing, or even a failure in our own eyes, or in the world’s eyes, all that really matters is how we lived, because that is what will determine the rest of our existence. Is there even such a thing as a failure? Does it not just mean that it didn’t go the way we expected?
The first reading from Isaiah is saying that God is guiding and helping us, even when we don’t realize it. ‘Thus says the Lord to his anointed Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp… opening doors before him… I have called you by your name, though you knew me not.’ (Is 45:1, 4-6)
I remember talking to an elderly man in hospital, who was near the end of his life. He admitted that he wasn’t very religious, but as he told me about his life, it became so obvious how God had guided him, even though at the time he may not have seen it. I think most of us can see the hand of God in our life when we look back. At the time it is not usually so obvious. The truth is that God is guiding us all the time and this makes perfect sense if we are his children. What parent would not try to guide their children?
Just because people haven’t come to know God doesn’t mean that God is not guiding them. Who would not guide their children and this is exactly what this reading says.
Some will say that we are naïve to believe in God. I say that they are naïve not to believe in God. The Lord continually gives us so many signs and miracles to help us believe, but we can choose to ignore them, or dismiss them. There is indisputable evidence of hundreds of miracles around us, from the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to Eucharistic miracles, the Shroud of Turin and miraculous healings that have taken place with prayer, all of which have been scientifically studied, with no explanation. The Lord is constantly reminding us of his presence, so that we don’t get too distracted by this world and forget what is coming. Our soul is going to live on no matter what, but where it goes depends on what we choose.