Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, February 4, 2018
Sunday of Meatfare
The Temporal World and the Culture of Death

Epistle: 1st Corinthians 8:8 to 9:2  
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46  

There is an interesting word I want to talk about today: Temporal. When you look in the dictionary you will find two basic definitions of the word. One meaning of temporal is “relating to time” and it is often used in science fiction, as in Star Trek when Mr. Spock tells Captain Kirk that their spaceship is experiencing a “temporal anomaly” and they time travel back to the 20th century. The other definition of temporal is: relating to worldly affairs as opposed to spiritual affairs. Now why would a word that comes from the Latin “tempor” be used to describe both time and the material world? I think the answer can be found in another English word that comes from “tempor” and that is “temporary.” The whole universe is temporary. It will come to an end one day. Granted it is a very, very long temporary even up until now, but it is temporary all the same. It has a limit. It is not eternal. It will end and then be no more.

So I want to mention today a temporal reality that is very important to us but probably not considered or thought about as much as it should be. There is a temporal aspect to our life in this world. Our lives here are temporary. They are relatively short. And so when they come to an end, what happens? Now this is a question that most people, most of the time, do not want to think about. That’s somewhat understandable because it is beyond our experience in this temporal world. Of course, there are some times when we think about our death, the end of our time in this world, but for the most part we try to keep away from it. Intellectually we know we’re going to die but too often we live as though we are unaware of this truth. We pretend, in a way, that we will live a very, very, very long time, so why think of death when it’s so far off in the future, even if I’m 64? We are often truly reluctant to consider the temporary existence we enjoy in this world.

I have been thinking about the culture of death which St. John Paul first mentioned in 1993. Why is it that our society so easily accepts both abortion and euthanasia? There are a number of reasons why we accept these deaths but I think one of those reasons is that since we, as a culture, find it very difficult or almost impossible to think of our own deaths, the death of the unborn and the elderly do not seem to have any connection to my own life, and my own mortality—which I am not thinking about and will not be thinking about. It would SEEM that the deaths of others should remind me of my own limited time in this world, but if I refuse to think about the end of my own life, the ending of other lives does not hold much relevance or importance for me. People talk about compassion in these cases of the killing of the young and the elderly. But the word “compassion” is from the Latin word meaning “to suffer with.” Yet I think when it is applied to abortion and euthanasia its meaning is “I will NOT suffer with.” If I do not consider my own death, then your death might not touch me, because it’s you, and it’s not me, and I’m going to live probably forever.

If we woke up and discovered that we would die tomorrow how would we spend that day? Probably not binge-watching old episodes of “Friends” on Netflix. Such news would surely focus our minds, our hearts and our souls, and I think we can all appreciate how that might work out for us. But look how differently we live because we do not know the hour of our death. If we woke up every day with the genuine realization that this could be our last day of life on earth I think our thoughts and our actions would be rather different than they are right now. But it’s hard to sustain that kind of awareness because we really, really want to believe we’re going to live a really, really long time in this world. Only faith tells us we have another and a better home we are being called to. Only faith tells us that the only lasting possibility, the only genuine guarantee, the only route to life everlasting is to put our lives in the hands of Jesus Christ and stop pretending we are going to live here forever, because the truth is that today we are one day closer to our death than we were yesterday.

Now you may be thinking, “Father, it’s a beautiful Sunday morning. Why are you talking about death?” First, because it’s the third most important event that will ever take place in our lives. You’ll have to figure out what the other two events are. The second reason I bring it up is because when we consider, ponder, think about, imagine and contemplate the reality of our deaths it provides us with a most excellent opportunity to put ourselves in the presence of the one Who has conquered death. And then—what will we do?