Like finding one of his kin in the house, this year's Rat brings a sense of urgency.
told by Deborah
Jesus told the crowd a parable: “A rich man made a bundle in the stock market. ‘Hmmm,’ he thought to himself, ‘What should I do with all this money?’ Then he said, ‘I know: I’ll tear down my house and build a great big one with a five-car garage and a swimming pool and a wine cellar, and put the rest of the money in an off-shore account. I’ll never have to worry again; I’ll say to myself, “You’re all set: relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘Foolish man! You’re going to die tonight — what do you have to show for your life? And, as for all that stuff you’ve collected, what use will it be?’”
Jesus shook his head sadly, “That’s how it goes for those who stockpile earthly treasures for themselves but give no thought to God.”
According to the Chinese zodiac, the western calendar year 2020 is “the Year of the Rat.” Sadly, this rodent is not arriving as a clever, shy, effective householder, but as a disease carrier, a harbinger of doom: the Grim Squeaker.
Reports of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak are alarming and too well-publicized to list here. The disease appears to be highly-contagious, and is often lethal. Thousands have been infected, and many hundreds of thousands are in quarantine. Simply put: this is serious.
What then, shall we do?
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for…..”
That’s one way of looking at things: whoop it up now, before it is too late. Drink the best wine, eat the best food, forget the diets and ignore the calories. If we’re going to go, let’s go out happy. Take up skydiving, eat ice cream for breakfast. Play more air guitar. In public. Sing louder. Dance in the street. Leave work early. Spend more time with your friends. Do what you love.
It’s not bad advice: our lives here are short; whatever comes next, it will be different from this. We should enjoy our earth-based living while we can. This is a glorious place, and it would be a shame if we missed out on experiencing it fully.
But life is more than what we have accumulated and accomplished; it is also how we have lived. If, as happened to the man in Jesus’ parable, you were called to “make an account of your life this very night,” what would you do?
Chances are, you wouldn’t bring along an itemized list of what used to be called your “worldly goods.” The money in your checking account, the furniture in your home, the car in your garage, the clothing in your closet — all of the “stuff” that fills our lives and absorbs so much of our attention would suddenly seem ridiculously unimportant.
This is not to discount the value of food and shelter and clothing, only to put them in perspective. We are often troubled and anxious: worrying, worrying, worrying …. We worry about anything and everything — caught up in troubles that may never arise, disasters that may never occur, entangled in problems from long ago, snared in past regrets and resentments.
The inessential, insignificant, and imaginary — whether fear-based or fantasy-driven — distracts us from the here and now, prevents us from seeing clearly, and impairs our creativity; we are pulled into the abyss of the inconsequential. We forget what really matters. We forget our own value and intrinsic worth.
That fact is astonishingly easy for us to forget.
We are more than what we do or what we have, more than our words or our works. We are sacred, holy beings: blessed by our Designer, called to be bearers of peace and grace, sharers of compassion and mercy. If we will only live in the Light of that reality, we may truly heal the world. We are more powerful than we know; in our way of being, in our way of thinking, in our life of prayer and thanksgiving.
The powers which seek to manipulate and control the people and our planet pull us away from one another. We are separated and split apart, distracted and disempowered by endless negativity, hatred, fear, and scorn, aggression and antagonism. This causes soul-disease far more virulent and painful than any virus that can only kill the body.
As true followers of our Lord Jesus, we are called to heal, to bless, to build up and encourage. It is not an option, but a necessity.
It can be tiring — even alarming, to accept our responsibility (response-ability) in shaping the course of this world. It means to be strong in spirit, despite it all. It is to pray without ceasing, to carry on with faith and hope, to live with kindness and courage, to refute all hatred and destruction… It is to proclaim Christ to all people, at all times, in all ways — using words, if necessary.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
~ Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30
What if this was the end for us? What if tonight was the last night, if this day were the last day? What if we had only a few hours remaining in our earthly lives; what use would we make of the time that is left to us?
If I got word that “tonight’s the night,” I can imagine being tempted to call out some of those who are hateful and hurtful, naming wrongdoers to their faces, demanding justice with a clenched fist. But, hopefully, that desire would be brief. Instead, I would hope to be gifted with the wisdom to celebrate the joys of my beloved family, the delights of dear friendships, the glories of the earth. Why stare into shadows or suck on lemons when we can rejoice in the sunshine and taste the sweetness of life? There is so little time and so much to enjoy!
“Go toward the Light,” those words often said to the souls that are passing over; focus on the beautiful, the radiant, the comforting: Let the Light illuminate your journey. Surely that is good advice for each and every stage of our journey!
Accidents, diseases, disasters, and disorders put our lives daily at risk; the normal processes of aging push us closer to our mortal endings; truly any day might be our last. The mystery is not if, but when we will waltz with the Grim Reaper. The Question is: How shall we live while we are here?
If this day were your last, what would you see; how would you see? Surely the last views of the faces of those you love, of the sun and the moon and the stars, of the birds and bees and flowers and trees, lizards and ladybugs, of all creatures, great and small … surely then, all heaven and earth will be revealed as exuberantly alive and gloriously beautiful. Surely, in the perspective of eternity, our last-ing prayer should be “Thank You.”
“Thank You, Gracious One, for allowing me to be a human being.”
~ Clare of Assisi, on her deathbed.
The Year of the Rat need not be one of despondence or doom, but an auspicious reminder that life here is temporary and limited: a jewel of great price given into our keeping. This is a fact we often forget; treating our days as routine, unexceptional, unimportant, even dull — rather than cherishing them as precious and unique.
Equally so, are the lives of others; each of us is on a personal, once-in-a-lifetime journey, making our way along the often-challenging and complicated path. Do we live each day as if it might be our last — with compassion, awe, and gratitude? Do we make the best use of the scarce, sacred hours we have been given? In God’s mercy and compassion we are given the opportunity to answer these questions — “to make an account of our lives” — anew, each and every day.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
~ Micah 6:8
May the radiance of Christ shine forth in us,
Do you cherish the life you have been given?
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who trusts in Him.
~ Psalm 34:8