It is an unwritten law of life that we appreciate things more when we are in danger of losing them. I think Ben Rector’s song “Like The World Is Going to End” reflects this reality. Here are two of the verses from the song (but I strongly suggest you listen to the whole thing):
If we found out that the world
was gonna end on Tuesday morning
What would everybody do
It's funny how the thought of that
can make something real important
And a lot of things pretty worthless too
But I'd be dancin' like a fool
I'd be laughin', I'd be cryin'
Callin' everbody I'd ever hurt and reconcilin'
I'd call everyone I loved
Say what I was scared to say till then
Now that I think about it
Maybe I should always live like the world is gonna end
The message of the song is that when faced with the reality of the end of our lives, we begin to live life differently. We begin to cherish the things that we had previously taken for granted. I just had the opportunity to go on retreat for a few days during Advent at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama (which, by the way, you should definitely visit if you have not done so already). While there, I was reading a book that explained a really interesting spiritual practice that the Salesians, a religious order founded by St. John Bosco, used to do. Every month for their day of recollection, the brothers would live like it was their last day on earth. Each brother would say Mass like it was his last. He would eat each meal as if it was his last. He would spend time with his brothers as if it were his last. In short, he would cultivate a grateful awareness of everything that he was doing. The goal of the exercise was ultimately to change the way that each brother lived every day of his life and not just one day out of every month.
Whether you choose to take up this practice or not, I think it is an important thing to think and pray about as someone seeking to follow Christ. Jesus Himself tells each of us:
“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come (Mt 24:42-44).”
Obedient to Christ’s command, St. Benedict exhorts his monks to keep death before their eyes every day of their lives. Now, this may sound a bit morbid. However, my experience has been that meditating on death has helped me to live my life a whole lot better.
The most recent time that I went home for Christmas break, I attempted to put this whole “live today like it is your only day” thing into practice. I tried my best to really soak in that hug that I gave to my mom, to tell my dad that I loved him and appreciated him, and to really enjoy playing cards and watching TV together. Wouldn’t it be something if we could be really and truly aware of and thankful for every moment of our lives?
There are two practical tips that I will leave you with to help you to truly live every day to the fullest, cherishing each and every moment. The first is to pray. No matter how hard we try, we can do absolutely nothing good without the grace of God. Jesus tells us to ask and we shall receive, so let’s take Him up on His offer. Ask for the grace to be more aware of the gift of your life, and ask for the grace to cherish every moment of it. Secondly, I encourage you to try as much as possible to do one thing at a time and avoid multi-tasking. If you are eating at the table with your family, be present to them. If you are doing math homework, stay focused on that. If you are at sports practice, live in that moment. Jesus told us that He came so that we might have life, so why not live it? When we truly begin to live our lives to the full, we start to get a small taste of the eternal life for which we are all created.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, wake up! Be present to each and everything that you do. Brush those teeth and be grateful for each one of them. Eat breakfast and enjoy the taste of eggs and oatmeal. Listen up during class, you never know how God may want to speak to you through your teachers. Practice hard, dance well, and give full attention to your studies. Enjoy being with your family, because you never know when you won’t be able to anymore. And when you go to bed at night, rest in the simply fact that you are alive and that your very existence is a gift.
Link to the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqvWr2z-HIw
Written by: Alex Ruch, seminarian of the Diocese of Baton Rouge